Velocity: Toward the real-time business

Velocity 2013 Speaker Series

I want to start by thanking John and Steve for the warm welcome. They’ve created something very amazing with Velocity, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

It might seem a bit odd to talk about What’s Next at the beginning of a conference, but I figure the best time to go to the bank and ask for a loan is when you actually have some money.

What we’ve been talking about at Velocity, especially the DevOps side of things, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how businesses are changing. And that shift is from the sequential to the concurrent. It used to be that we threw things over a series of walls, from Product Management to Design, to Development, to QA, to Production, to Customer Service and so on. That was an old world of software and one-year development cycles.

Ten years ago, I was a program manager at And I worked on this feature to put much more detailed, quasi “real-time” inventory on the detail page for every product we sold:


That project, to put that one little line of text right there, took almost a year and a half. Obviously, things have changed, and not just for Amazon.

Today, everything happens in real time, everything happens concurrently. This is the heart of the DevOps idea, but in truth it’s not unique to Dev and Ops. You are finding customers (some might say “growth hacking”), as you are deploying new code, as you are providing customer support, as you are collecting feedback for the next version, as you are generating metrics for the business. You are always deploying something.

The reality is that businesses that don’t have this culture of real-time delivery and concurrency in their organizational DNA are at serious risk. If you don’t, you’re on the good ship Blockbuster while someone else out there is reinventing Netflix. You must adapt or die.

My current thinking is that the skills that you all already either have or are here because you understand you need them)–this way of doing things that people at the forefront of the web have truly invented over the last decade–are crucial to the survival of what is now the dominant channel for commerce. Those of you who charted these waters as web-first commerce businesses are thriving. But others coming to this now with only a small glimmer of what’s required in order to keep up, they have no idea how. Velocity has always had a unique culture of sharing, more so than any other conference or technical community I’ve been a part of. So while we need to continue to provide very technical, content-heavy information that provides a foundation of understanding about how to deliver high-performing, real-time web experiences, I believe we need to do more. That’s what I’m focused on at O’Reilly–how do we spread this critical information beyond where we are right now?

We need to take the lessons that we’ve fought over and won here, at Velocity, and deploy them out of the data center and into the board room. What does it take to build a successful real-time business? That’s what I’d like to hear more about. Please come talk to me during the conference, or find me on Twitter.

Editor’s note: O’Reilly Editor Courtney Nash is the newly announced Velocity Conference co-chair. This is the text of her remarks delivered at Velocity 2013.

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