Why We Teach Our Customers How to Fish

By Flux7 Labs
May 23, 2017



There is an old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” While the origins of this thought are highly contested, the illustration is remarkably common across cultures and time. The reason is not its profundity, but rather its common sense wisdom. At Flux7, we pair this proverbial wisdom with another increasingly common thought, that “Every company is a technology company”.  When technology is core to what you do and your competitive advantage in the marketplace, you simply cannot outsource it. As a result, teaching customers how to fish is not just a ‘nice to have’ but critical to business success.

We are seeing more and more companies undergo digital transformation as they embrace the idea that technology is core to their business. With the knowledge that technology is what provides them with an advantage in the marketplace, these companies are insourcing their technology and adopting a DevOps approach as a way to become more agile and speed their time-to-market. However, DevOps is not just about new technology or processes, it’s also about a cultural change. And, you can’t outsource a new mindset; people within the organization need to internalize and learn it in order to be successful with it.

Retail is a great example of an industry where businesses are starting to awaken to the idea that technology excellence (not just operational excellence) is a key differentiator — and that they had better start improving at it. To do so, they are insourcing their technology, undergoing digital business transformation and adopting DevOps best practices. They are embracing the notion that you can’t leave your core business differentiator to a third party.

As a result, our impetus for teaching customers how to fish is to ensure that they are equipped to succeed with the DevOps initiative that supports their core business advantage.  

Our Approach: Shadow, Coach, & Mentor

Our consulting approach consists of three phases — planning, implementation and knowledge transfer. It is this knowledge transfer phase, where we focus our knowledge transfer efforts and seek to ensure that our customers have the skills they need to understand how to use, change and extend the infrastructure moving forward. Ultimately, this knowledge leads to greater independence, agility and business excellence.

Unlike other organizations, Flux7 focuses on knowledge transfer throughout the course of our customer engagements. We work hand-in-hand with our customers to teach them along the way, using a model where the engagement slowly transitions from

  • Flux7 consultants leading project tasks with the customer shadowing and Flux7 consultants imparting knowledge as to what they are doing and why;
  • To Flux7 and the customer working elbow-to-elbow on tasks and Flux7 consultants coaching as the customer takes the reins;
  • To the customer leading tasks and Flux7 mentoring when and where needed.

This model allows the customer to take ownership and grow comfortable with the technologies and processes deployed in their environment while having an expert there to guide them at every step. As part of the overall (and often hands-on) mix as the project progresses, customers are able to retain more knowledge and often get a greater depth of understanding.

This level of coaching helps remove the risk of error and with it reduces the need for problem and trouble resolution. Moreover, it allows our customer teams to spend more time working on strategic initiatives and less time figuring something out, or on the phone with us. In addition to teaching the skills needed for day-to-day management of new cloud systems, Flux7 focuses on teaching our customers how to grow and extend the infrastructure for sustained success.

Knowledge Transfer Sessions
Flux7 also offers structured knowledge transfer sessions as part of its mentoring. We often hold these knowledge transfer classes virtually and focus on bite-sized sessions rather than a full-day training course. Taught by a senior Flux7 engineer and based on adult learning best practices, this approach allows customers to focus on learning a specific skill set, see it applied, and then have the opportunity to apply it themselves to accomplish a task of value. This approach has been proven to increase knowledge retention as people can go back to their desk and apply what they have just learned.

Center of Excellence

DevOps is not only a technology and process transformation, but it is also a cultural transformation, changing how technology teams in the business operate. As a result, we recommend that our customers establish an internal Center of Excellence (CoE) as a key to long-term success. Among other things, the CoE should be tasked with teaching others in the organization how the new enterprise DevOps framework works.

We often help CoEs present the concepts and key skills needed for ongoing success through a CoE Summit. CoE Summits focus on evangelizing the importance of the new DevOps infrastructure and processes — and, critically, in making sure that the important skills needed to support the new infrastructure, applications and culture are effectively shared.

Through knowledge transfer and coaching, Flux7 provides hands on DevOps coaching which helps customers improve their success rates for independently managing their new infrastructure post-deployment. While our consultants remain on call for any questions that might arise, evolving the skills of our customers’ development and IT teams sets them up for long-term sustainability and success.

Our approach of teaching our customers how to fish has worked so well that several of our clients have been selected by Amazon for their AWS DevOps excellence to present at re:Invent:

If you are you interested in expanding your organization’s skills and knowledge needed to manage and extend DevOps solutions with agility, please head over to our knowledge transfer resource page. Or, subscribe to our blog for an ongoing feed of tips, tricks, use cases and news analysis.

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