4–7 Nov 2019
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Swarming, Cynefin, and avoiding the problems of becoming a third-line support team

Jon Hall (BMC)
15:5016:30 Thursday, 7 November 2019
Location: Hall A4

Who is this presentation for?

  • DevOps practitioners, team leaders, and senior managers




As DevOps grows in importance in enterprises, the user base of the resulting products and services increases to a scale where it becomes necessary to adopt them into established support channels. This is often a necessary and even valuable step to ensure that the scale of support work doesn’t dilute the ability of DevOps teams to deliver innovation and value. Unfortunately, it tends to bring those teams into the traditional and ubiquitous tiered support structure, typically as a “third-line” specialist support team.

Jon Hall dives into the limitations and challenges of this structure, particularly in the context of the new ways of working that have defined the DevOps movement. He addresses fundamental problems such as work-in-progress queues, silos, delays, and lack of skills sharing and knowledge transfer which often result from tiered support; highlights some of the fundamental incompatibilities with the DevOps philosophy; and shows in particular that tiered support has significant limitations for the support of complex distributed systems.

As an alternative, he explores swarming, which replaces the tiered structure with a more dynamic, collaborative approach to support. He shows that this is fundamentally a better way of working for many support scenarios, highlights that swarming aligns much better in particular with DevOps thinking and practice; shows examples of real-world swarming practices established in transforming enterprises; and uses an exploration of complexity-theory-derived thinking, notably the Cynefin framework, to show that swarming is highly adaptive, enabling adoption of cutting-edge ways of supporting complex distributed systems.

Prerequisite knowledge

  • Familiarity with technical support as part of a DevOps role (useful but not required)

What you'll learn

  • Understand swarming and its advantages over traditional support structures
  • Learn about real-world instances of swarming in enterprises
  • Get an introduction to Cynefin and a demonstration of swarming as a means of implementing it
Photo of Jon Hall

Jon Hall


Jon Hall is a principal product manager at BMC. He’s been working in the technology sector, particularly in the field of IT service management (ITSM), for two decades, in roles ranging from development through implementation and process consultancy to product management. A strong DevOps advocate in the ITSM community, his work focuses on the alignment of the two ways of thinking in enterprises, particularly as DevOps scales beyond the scope of ad hoc support. He’s spoken at a large number of ITSM and DevOps conferences, including DevOps Enterprise Summit USA, Configuration Management Camp, and a number of devopsdays events.

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  • Cloudflare
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  • Akamas
  • Aqua Security Software
  • Fastly
  • Google
  • Instana
  • JetBrains
  • LaunchDarkly
  • LightStep
  • OVHcloud
  • SignalFx
  • VictorOps
  • Wayfair
  • Blameless
  • Chronosphere
  • FusionReactor
  • humanitec
  • replex GmbH
  • StackState
  • Datadog
  • GitLab
  • Gremlin
  • StormForger
  • SysEleven GmgH
  • Vamp.io

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