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An Update on ChatOps: A Chat with Jason Hand

Amanda Boughey January 25, 2018

DevOps ChatOps

We sat down with Jason Hand, author of ChatOps – Managing Operations in Group Chat, to discuss the progression of ChatOps since his book was published in August 2016, including the struggle many organizations faced getting up to speed. Continue reading to see how far ChatOps has grown.

Q: What’s new with ChatOps?

A: ChatOps continues to grow, largely due to the continuing abstraction of digital services away from end users. To be more specific, this is happening because many organizations are making the shift to the cloud. We’re also seeing an increase in development around APIs offering more operability. With APIs, organizations have more functionality available within a service, so there’s more opportunity for customized control and manipulation of technology.

There’s also an increasing desire to create a more self-serving environment for organizations to reduce working processes. Empowering workers to do their job more efficiently has become top of mind for many organizations. ChatOps allows for safe access to help workers get their jobs done quickly. Because ChatOps is self-serving, you can reduce a large amount of context switching. People have information in a centralized location, so there’s no more jumping from an individual chat conversation, to an email thread, to a voicemail. People are now enabled to perform their best because the information is easy to access.

Q: What else do you think is contributing to the steady adoption of ChatOps?

A: More and more organizations are shifting away from isolated and private chat conversations and standardizing on one group chat tool, like Slack or Stride. Many organizations now see the complications with some people using an individual chat function, while only a few are on a group chat tool. This has created a shift towards everyone jumping into group chats to simplify things at the organizational level.

A lot of companies have been wanting to go down the ChatOps path but have SaaS-based communication tool regulations and restrictions. Luckily, open-source ChatOps tools, like Mattermost, are becoming more popular in large organization. This has opened the door for companies to experiment with their own ChatOps without the restrictions associated with some SaaS tools.

Q: What feedback are you getting around early adoption of ChatOps? Where do teams get started?

A: As time goes on, one obvious benefit of ChatOps is better visibility into incident management. We’re seeing a lot of companies spending effort on improving their post-incident reviews; the most successful teams use a ChatOps approach during incident management and resolution. This makes for an extremely granular and detail-rich timeline which helps engineers discover opportunities for learning and improvement. Being able to show commands, as well as talking about what’s being seen and done during an incident, has made ChatOps a very important part of proper incident reviews.

ChatOps is getting easier as the barriers to entry have been reduced. As more companies continue to shift into cloud technologies, container management, and serverless architectures, we’ll find engineers choosing to use group chat as the interface to simplify their jobs.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I was very recently reminded of how important ChatOps has become within many organizations. I spent my New Year’s with a couple of SREs, some fellow VictorOps employees and some SREs from Github. In talking with them I could see how much an SRE role depends on ChatOps to be successful. In fact, one of those SREs told me all new projects she’s working on at the moment are being done through ChatOps—how impressive.

Want to learn more about ChatOps? Start with Jason Hand’s book. ChatOps is still very relevant—and his book is still one of the only books focused solely on ChatOps.

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