Using Design Methods to Establish Healthy DevOps Practices

I wish adopting DevOps was as easy as just ticking items off on a DevOps todo list. Or as easy as setting up Jenkins and Docker. The reality is very different. Successful DevOps transitions require changes in the technical stack, in the mindset, in practices, and in the organizational culture. Unfortunately, the key cultural elements that need to change are usually buried in apathy, shyness and office politics.

To reveal these crucial yet hidden cultural elements, we borrowed methods from an unlikely discipline: Design. User experience designers have been developing methods to better understand humans for more than 40 years now, producing digital experiences that transform many areas of our lives seamlessly. We brought a selection of user-centric design methods to the IT department to understand how our clients work and to hear their deep, unspoken needs.

In this talk, I will go over five fundamental principles we borrowed from the design domain to understand the work culture of our clients. These principles are not exclusive to anyone – everyone can learn them with the right mindset. Join us to learn about how you can gain a user-centric perspective to understand technical organizations through creativity and without prejudice, so that you can remain happy, strong, and motivated in your DevOps journey.


Attendees of this talk will hear about these five principles: Accepting abductive thinking: Sometimes designers deliberately add uncertainty to the problem at hand to see if there are more creative, more effective solutions out there, especially for strategic design. This is very different than our automatic reaction to reduce uncertainty. Abductive thinking allows us to see multiple futures and evaluate them concurrently.

Creating a safe, conducive space: The abductive approach creates many, many opportunities to be wrong, to look stupid and to hit dead ends. This is OK. Therefore, it is very important to create safe spaces that are conducive to collaboration and co-discovery.

Externalizing issues: Tough issues may end up team members to point fingers at each other. Design addresses this challenge by externalizing the issues, visualizing them, and turning them into models we can manipulate – like post-its on a wall, cute models or interactive prototypes. Organizations can also be expressed as models that we can fiddle with, without blaming anyone.

Working with actual users: Good designers work not only with product owners, but with the actual users who will end up using the designed product. We acknowledge the value of our sponsors too, but our work impacts people other than the ones signing the contract. We strive to include the actual people who will be impacted by our work, positively or negatively, so that they can be a part of the solution.

Prototyping solutions: Designers create prototypes for features that are hard to code, so that they can see how the feature will work without having to wait for the release. Cultural transformations take years to be successful. It is very important to experiment and try solutions in the leanest way possible to see what they entail. Coaching, roleplaying, pilot teams are excellent ways to prototype organizational changes. We have been using these methods at kloia for about a year now. You can have a look at our program page at I will be sharing anonymized cases and examples from our client work for each section.



Aras Bilgen


Digital Transition Consultant @kloia

Aras is a digital transition consultant at kloia. He trains designers, business analysts, agile teams, managers, and executives on human-centric approaches to