HumanOps Events: Get excited

By David Mytton,
CEO & Founder of Server Density.

Published on the 20th September, 2016.

The health of your infrastructure is not just about hardware, software, automations and uptime—it also includes the health and wellbeing of your team. Sysadmins are not super humans. They are susceptible to stress and fatigue just like everybody else.

Now here is the thing.

A superhero culture exists that places unreasonable expectations on Ops teams. While understandable, this level of expectation is neither helpful nor sustainable.

In our efforts to highlight the effects of this culture on sysadmins and their productivity, earlier this year we introduced HumanOps, a collection of principles that advance our focus away from systems, and towards humans. What’s more we got everyone together in HumanOps events around the world (watch the talks below).

We built features so you can build more features

On May 19th, we launched Sparklines for iOS. A great way of translating data and information into something a human can assimilate quickly. With system trends at their fingertips, sysadmins can now quickly decide whether to go home, or whether they can finish dinner before reaching for their laptop.

Then we shifted our gaze at interruptions. Context switching does not come free for humans, especially for tasks that require focus and problem solving, which is precisely what sysadmins do. When an engineer (and anyone for that matter) is working on a complex task the worst thing you can do is expose them to random alerts. It takes an average of 23 minutes to regain intense focus after being interrupted.

To alleviate that, we introduced Alert Costs, an easy way to measure the impact of incidents and alerts in human hours. This new quantifiable information allows engineering teams to measure and, most importantly, communicate the actual toll of systems on their human operators. And then do something about it.


But we couldn’t stop there. What about sleep? It’s no surprise that quality of sleep correlates with health, productivity and overall wellbeing; while sleep deprivation is associated with stress, irritability, and cognitive impairment. We cannot mitigate the human cost of on-call work without some sort of objective and relevant sleep metric we can measure. And that’s exactly what we did.

We launched; a tool that correlates sleep efficiency with incidents, and then visualises the human cost of on-call work.


Let’s talk HumanOps

HumanOps drives a lot of what we do here at Server Density. But HumanOps is not about one feature or even one company. There are several teams out there that are doing amazing work in this space. To bring all those efforts to the forefront, to celebrate, and to push the HumanOps agenda forward, we are organising HumanOps events around the world.

Over the last few months, for example, we hosted HumanOps meetups in San Francisco and London. In this series of articles, we will go through some of the highlights from the HumanOps efforts of companies like Spotify and Barclays, and organisations like GOV.UK. To give you a taste of what’s to come, here is the introductory video of our recent HumanOps event in London.

What follows is the key take-aways from Barclay’s HumanOps talk.

Portia Tung – Barclays

Portia Tung is an Executive Agile Coach at Barclays, and founder of The School of Play.

In her HumanOps talk she highlighted the importance of play at all stages of human development, in and out of the office. She pointed to research that demonstrates how play makes animals smarter and more adaptable. How it helps them sustain social relationships, supercharge their creativity and innovation.

Portia Tung touched on things like the recommended daily amount of play (5 to 10 minutes minimum) and things like play deficiency and its effects on employees (hint: not good). Play is a natural and essential human need throughout our life, i.e. not just when we’re young. A productive, collaborative, and happy workplace is a playful workplace.

Check out the Portia’s talk here:

And if you want the full transcript, then use the download link at the bottom of the article.

Stay tuned for more

HumanOps is a collection of principles that advance our focus away from systems, and towards humans. It starts from a basic conviction, namely that technology affects the wellbeing of humans just as humans affect the reliable operation of technology.

Did you enjoy the talk? Make sure you download and share the beautifully designed transcripts and stay tuned as next week we will be sharing some interesting work Spotify is doing in the HumanOps space.

Take the Barclays talk with you

Want to read at your own pace? Download the talk in PDF format.

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