HipChat – Affordable and Integrated DevOps Tool

“There is no tool, which is able to help transform your company culture or the way your teams collaborate.”

Before I’ve become aware of HipChat, I would agree with that statement, but not anymore as that tool is not only an instrument, but could be considered as a driver for change as its functionalities influence the way teams work, get notified, affects the speed and the flow of communication. The communication is key especially when it comes to tight deadlines, SLAs, prompt feedback and increased productivity. In the same time tools enabling the smooth exchange of information, ideas between the teams and providing seamless integration with other systems remain in the background as the focus is on maintenance, monitoring, versioning, bug fixing, incident handling, etc.

Being one of the most important value of the agile way of work, communication between the operational/infrastructure teams, the software development and the business is the basis for the DevOps movement and in that regard every instrument supporting and encouraging it should be considered and moved in the forefront. And here comes a common mistake many of the companies are prone to do. They simply buy additional tool/s on top of what they have already, trying to close the communication gap and to summarize and to make the data available for everyone, or in order to gain credibility declaring they’ve adopted not only the culture and organizational change, but the „necessary toolset” as well.

The consequences of such approach are usually:

  • additional financial pressure since some of the DevOps tools are costly
  • in case usage of open source solution is chosen the maintenance and upgrades remain uncertain and no responsibility for eventual loses can be defined or support by possible issues requested
  • tools are not compatible or need workarounds to function seamlessly with the existing infrastructure/systems
  • additional time is spent on changing and logging to different tools for gaining or combining parts of the information needed
  • usually every DevOps tool is specialized for a particular task – for example only for monitoring, for communication, etc.
  • working in silos practice remains as every user continues to use the old systems – the developers are tracking and managing their tasks in tool like Jira, the operation teams resolve issues in some kind of service desk or service management system and the business users continue to communicate via e-mail and/or chat only.
  • The cultural change can not be carried out as adding a new tool/s is perceived only as work overload increase (sometimes those systems are not very user friendly as well so the staff should get trained or will need time to get familiar with)
  • The effect is the opposite – instead of inspired the employees feel demotivated and frustrated as what they see is only one more additional tool to use and to understand.

Logically here comes the question is there a way out of that devil’s circle as the companies need to change and to embrace the new way of teamwork anyway, but not on the cost of significant budget spent, dissatisfied coworkers and additional technical showstoppers?

Let me outline some of the benefits HipChat can bring in that regard. For that purpose the acronym C.A.L.M.S. – describing the essentials of the DevOps movement will be used.

What is the meaning of the five pillars of the acronym:

C stands for Culture, which means to  own the change and to  drive collaboration and communication.

Thinking in terms of HipChat functionalities its first and foremost task is the quick, right-on-time and reaching the appropriate teams communication. Hipchat is a robust cloud based solution, accessible everywhere, on a computer or on mobile, it provides you with the confidentiality of dedicated rooms; adding new members to the conversation happens with a click only, the feedback is done right on the spot. It is equipped as well not only with pure chat solution, but file and screen sharing and video chat are among its features.

Having HipChat in place enforces value like transparency as everyone is able to see what is happening, helps to avoid the work in silos as all participants in the room are involved in the discussion, the solution and helps to coordinate the activities better in self-organizing teams – there are no duplicated or unnecessary actions and both sides are able to concentrate on the requirements/ issues from infrastructure and development point of view, which speeds the time for response, resolution and decision taking.

A stands for Automation, which means to recognize where your waste is and to minimize or take manual steps out of the value chain. HipChat comes in handy in that situation as well: it is fully integrated with the Atlassian product pack, which allows you to work in all of their tools using just that one, but being compatible with +130 other tools so when searching for chat and communication solution you don’t need to change other tools used for development, service management or other customer collaboration. Integration with systems and tools not listed in the out of the box or add-on solutions is also possible using bash scripts or slash commands. This means being able to receive notification for every significant change in the service or server directly in HipChat, to raise a Jira ticket without opening it and to trigger a build without entering another tool, or to inform the organization and /or the customer about an outage and to keep them up-to-date or giving them heads up for upcoming planned maintenance without the involvement of another solution.

L is for Lean, which prescribes lean principles in order to enable higher cycle frequency. HipChat could help you avoid unnecessary time waste opening and updating or storing information in other tools. It is not only the most flexible Chatops tool, it can be your “command center” enabling smooth DevOps activities by the provision of centralizing, monitoring, alerting and communication solution in a single  chat room. It could be your SPOC – containing all the comments and feedback, the alerts and notifications from the systems and the links to the actions in order to mitigate or prevent.

Its user friendly interface, the well prepared and easily accessible documentation will save time and money used for trainings and for contacting the support.

M is for Metrics – without baseline and constant measurement the value cannot be defined and possibility for improvement is hard to be recognized. Being highly integrated, compatible and automated HipChat could collaborate achieving optimized response and resolution times, it can support faster on boarding of new employees including them in the problem discussions as of their first day. Another positive change is in the decrease of the e-mails got every day as much time is wasted to open and answer to them changing tools.

S stands for Sharing as without sharing of our experience, knowledge we could not enable others to learn. Another area, where HipChat can be very useful. Not only in the quick and efficient involvement of all interested, in the information spread, but with its ability to store the issue, the resolution and all of the discussions around it till the best solution is found and all that by providing optimal search possibilities.

I would add here one more letter, which is not part of the acronym above, but it is always considered when decision to get a tool is to be taken – P for the Price, which compared to its range of functionalities, accessibility and role in the organization to the other similar solutions is a positive surprise. What need to be mentioned here is that in the price you have included software maintenance – access to new software releases/enhancements, very responsive support team, critical bug fixes, and security patches – from the date of purchase till the end of the subscription.

Backed up additionally by the Atlassian charging policy with 30 days free trials and avoiding to pay for what you don’t really use makes HipChat one of the preferred and desired communication and collaboration enabling tools on the market.

 

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Radosveta Delcheva

IT Service Management Consultant

A passionate ITSM consultant with over 9 years of experience and a solid knowledge in industry standards for service and project management. Worked as analyst and project or service manager in international projects of customers of different sizes – enterprises, middle-sized businesses and start-ups in the IT and BPO industry and always with the ambition to achieve service excellence and high customer satisfaction.





Author: Nikola Gaydarov
Nikola has been in the IT sector for almost 10 years. He started his career in HP Global Delivery Center back in 2007 and since then has been involved in many different roles: technical consultant, operational manager, transition manager and ITSM implementation consultant. During these years he has worked both domestically and in Western Europe.