Why Are You Using That Hammer?

One of the most difficult questions that teams need to answer is: “Why are we doing x when we could be doing y?” Tooling and process decisions are highly influential, often come with a high degree of user bias, and yet can be among the worst documented decisions that organizations make.

The Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame have increasingly been moving towards the DevOps culture, working on rapidly delivering solutions and granting systems engineers and developers both the freedom to solve problems. An impetus for this culture shift was a University and organizational mandate to adopt a “CloudFirst” mentality, embracing Software-as-a-Service solutions whenever possible, and moving onto Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service where needed.

A consistent concern from the technologists has been having a consistent answer to the question: “What tool(s) should we use to do this work”? Having a shared understanding of tooling creates a shared context of workflow, pain points, and success stories. A shared understanding of tooling also suggests that work is transferrable and has some resilience against personnel churn.

This is not a talk about the tools themselves - rather, this is a talk providing insight into how tooling decisions can be made, and made in a sustainable and productive way. The Hesburgh Libraries have been working towards a culture of contributor empowerment for decisions - which can certainly have impacts to shared understanding of problems and isolated decisions. Hear how we attempt to balance the agility of individual empowerment with the need for institutional resilience.

Ian Alford joined the Hesburgh Libraries as the manager for the Enterprise Systems Unit in January of 2017. His portfolio functional responsibility for service delivery, infrastructure, security, and availability of both internal and patron-facing Library services. In addition, his team holds Quality Assurance and testing as functional responsibilities.

What You Will Learn

  • Our process for picking a tooling - what we did right and what could have been better
  • Why shared context is important
  • When to build, when to “buy”
  • How Leadership can help enculturate the decisions
  • When to change your mind



Ian Alford


Ian Alford is an IT manager who inherited a team in the middle of a chaotic DevOps cultural shift, he has been particularly involved with the defining of roles, building of areas of responsibility,