Russell Zera is a Manager of Agile Development at Elsevier, where he has been working on cloud for four years. Previously, he spent six years working on Jira server at Lockheed Martin.
When I first started hearing about “the cloud,” just as it was starting to get big, I was a bit skeptical. Then I came to Elsevier, which had just switched over to the cloud, and I’ve since embraced it, learning some valuable lessons and best practices along the way. Most of these practices have the added benefit of making your organization a better cloud “neighbor,” too.
Operations in a server environment vs. in the cloud
Back in server-land, admins like me (and many of you) were in complete control. Or at least we liked to think so. System’s getting a little sluggish? No problem! Let’s just throw some additional resources at it (more money, more servers, more memory, more cache), and – like magic – problem solved. But in the cloud, you don’t own those resources, so you can’t fully control them. And that’s pretty hard for admins like us to give up. So we approached this whole cloud thing with a heavy dose of skepticism.
But, guess what? We didn’t always control things, in the sense of enforcing smart, efficient practices. More often than not, our ability to throw additional resources at a problem simply masked our organization’s inefficient practices – which just continued to build up and add to our problems over time. So the vicious cycle of spending more and more to implement temporary workarounds went on and on.
With cloud systems, you just can’t do that in the same way. You may lose a little control over your resources. But they also rip the mask off of all the inefficient practices that had grown out of control. So over time, you begin to implement and enforce better and better practices, until you’re finally back in control of the things that matter most. You’ll be more organized and efficient, regardless of whether you’re on server or in the cloud, and, when you are in the cloud, you’ll be a much better “neighbor” to all the organizations that share those resources with you. You’ll likely never even know who they are, but the same things that make your organization’s systems run more smoothly, efficiently, and productively benefit many other organizations that utilize the cloud by freeing up shared resources – and that’s good for all of us. It’s the ultimate win-win.
So here are a few tips that will make your organization run better – and be a better cloud neighbor.
Get your Confluence configurations under control
Smart management of institutional content benefits everyone, including your fellow cloud citizens.
Control your Confluence refreshes
Frequent refreshes that are constantly pinging your cloud servers can hog resources. If you’ve set up automated refreshes, set them to occur at a reasonable frequency, so you’re not unnecessarily incurring extra cycles. The same applies to manual refreshes, so try to minimize those as well. And, of course, train everyone in your organization to do the same.
Stay organized with smart nomenclature and regular page reviews
Establishing and enforcing a well-designed, organization-wide system for naming and locating your spaces and pages in Confluence has a lot of benefits for your organization. Have you ever had to hunt around for a page with a vague title that doesn’t really tell you what’s in it? Have you ever wasted a bunch of time looking for a page that was created in the wrong space? Yeah, not so fun.
On top of helping everyone in the organization find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, a well-designed system will also ensure your organization isn’t creating redundant pages that waste both time and system resources, which, as we know, can adversely affect your neighbors as well. It also helps you keep tabs on pages that may be outdated or no longer needed, so you know exactly what you have to update and what you can simply delete – again, freeing up resources for the whole cloud neighborhood.
Minimize the complexity of your Confluence pages
I recently helped triage an issue where a single Confluence page had 175 calls to Jira, and users were wondering why their instance was running slowly. That’s how a lot of processing power gets eaten up for something that someone could get in one view. One solution for this is to use portfolio and embedding (using the Confluence iFrames Macro). Users can filter the results on that portfolio view of your roadmap and get your roll-up statuses, resulting in fewer calls.
Minimize the number of people with Atlassian admin privileges
This is a classic case of making sure there aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen. A simpler configuration requires fewer admins. Likewise, a more streamlined admin structure fosters a simpler configuration and better communication and coordination among the admins you do have.
Simplify your configurations by minimizing customization
As the old adage goes, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. While many of Atlassian’s Cloud products allow for a high degree of customization, it’s often simpler (and just as effective) to use default settings. This, again, allows for more streamlined operations that require a lot less maintenance.
Schedule your use of resources for off-hours
We all know it’s better to travel when traffic is lighter. Same goes for your use of cloud resources. Select add-ons that run your critical operations at low-use times. As a global company, Elsevier has offices in 28 countries — my department alone has groups in Vietnam, France, Germany, London, St. Louis, Houston, and Philadelphia. Taking all that into consideration, we figured out our optimal time of usage and selected our add-ons based on that.
Edit your list of statuses, resolutions, and priorities
Most of us have a tendency to think that our situations are unique, so they require special, personalized attention. In reality, that’s very seldom the case. So, at my company, we’ve made a concerted effort to minimize our lists of statuses, resolutions, and priorities.
If you ever encounter (as I have) different statuses that are identified as “dev done” and “dev complete,” you have to ask yourself if there’s really a significant difference there, or whether you can simply consolidate them. The same logic applies to your various options for resolutions and priorities. Editing and streamlining these selections make your operations much more efficient and, again, reduces your shared cloud resource usage, making you – that’s right – a better cloud neighbor.
Simplify your workflows
I’ve seen workflows with 60 steps that could easily be cut to 20. Keep in mind that the more simple your workflow is, the shorter the cycle time for your teams to get resolutions to their customers or launch new features.
By moving to the cloud (though we may not have fully realized it at the time), we entered a new and better world – a world that requires us to face and fix our operational inefficiencies, instead of covering them up with additional resources and expenses. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it leads, day by day, to a more disciplined and organized system that’s ultimately easier for everyone in your org to understand and utilize. And, though you may never see the benefits of this first-hand, it also makes you a better cloud neighbor – another way to do well by doing good. What’s not to love about that?
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