Over the years the agile movement has steadily gained pace alongside the DevOps evolution, thus changing how we deliver products and services. Gaining feedback from both systems and customers has allowed companies to understand their needs better: Learning what needs to change and, critically, what to change it to.  

As with most ideas attributed to agile: this is not a new concept. Using small samples of data to ensure quality or make decisions is nothing new.  

At the turn of the 20th Century, a young statistician named Gosset was working with Guinness in Ireland, assisting their mission in scaling operation, whilst keeping the quality of their world-famous stout intact. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and Guinness were producing nearly 2 million casks of hogshead, equivalent to 840 million pints of Guinness a year and allowing for around 210 pints of the Black Stuff for every man, woman and child in Ireland. The need to increase production was hindered by a need to retain quality. Gosset was asked looked at the quality of hops by calculating the proportion of “soft” resins to “hard” resins in a batch. By starting with large datasets then progressively lowering the sample size he was able to work out and then design t-test, a fundamental to statics today. Gossip’s work was published under the pseudonym Student due to Guinness not wanting their rivals to know how they were improving. His work allowed Guinness to increase productivity and ensure they were using the best quality grain while doing so.

These days, it has become the norm to use data and empirical processes throughout the entire delivery process, not just at the start. Whether its Test Driven Development, A/B testing or systems that monitor cloud infrastructure, data drives improvements. 

Companies like Spotify really drove the idea that getting customer feedback and A/B testing was vital when making improvements. They continually test on a small number of the public, increasing the numbers gradually and ensuring they are delivering valuable product increments. Technology developers can commit their code line by line opposed to the former process of waiting until months of coding and debugging have passed.

The speed at which companies can now deploy code would have been impossible a few years ago. Amazon engineers deploy code every 11.7 seconds on average—reducing both the number and duration of outages at the same time. Netflix engineers deploy code thousands of times per day. This is possible through continuous system feedback that tells the developer their code is working and doing what it should. 

Data insights from customers are now part of the decision making process. We now have huge amounts of data on customer behaviours and preferences (some would argue too much)  Incorporating it into the product roadmaps and allowing companies to continually deliver improvements back to customers is how the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) have, metaphorically speaking, managed to take over the world and become worth a combined £3.15 trillion.

All these companies have pop-ups and small question surveys on a variety of things such Google’s Feedback button

Confluence, FaceBook, Netflix and even AWS Management Console all have similar feedback mechanisms. 

Amazon took it a step further and were the first people to have product feedback written by customers, straight on to the products page. This allows potential customers to make a better-informed decision.

Jeff Bezos – “I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are around customer centricity, putting the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

In the ’80s, Hair Metal was running rampant throughout the world. Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row and Def Leppard all sold millions of albums worldwide. Another great band from that era was Van Halen. 

Van Halen, a four-piece from Pasadena, California were one of the pioneers of hair metal. Known for the flamboyant stage shows and energetic lead singer, Dave Lee Roth. Over time however people started noticing the guitarist in the band Eddie Van Halen. Later to be acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists of all time, ranking 8th in Rolling Stone’s top 100 Guitarists of all time. 

At the time, excess and decadence were key to being a hair metal band. Legendary stories like Ozzy Osborne rubber bat mix up were common with the bands of the day. When Van Halen went on their 1982 World Tour, they had a rider telling the promoter and venue manager how the complex stage and light show should be setup. The rider also included a list of food and drink the band wanted backstage including a bowl of M&M’s with ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES. and some more understandable things, like towels for after the show. 

This was put down to Rock n Roll extravagance, a band showing they could ask for anything. However, the truth is that the band used this to ensure the promoter had read the rider properly. 

This tour was their biggest to date and they had a very complex sound rig coupled with a huge light show. Eddie guitar rug involved running different voltage to his amps, stereo effects and a huge array of guitars.

They were worried that the promoters would miss important aspects of the show like lighting, sound, security and even ticketing. By adding the bizarre request into the rider they would know when they walked backstage if they had a problem. Brown M&M’s in the bowl meant they got their crew to double-check everything. 

Data, testing and feedback needs to be thought about constantly. Embedding them into the design of systems could be the difference between rocking all over the world or your customers never showing up again.

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