p48-limoncelli.pdf - practice DOI:10.1145 3190572  Article...

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48 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM | JUNE 2018 | VOL. 61 | NO. 6 practice time he did something manually, he documented the steps. That may not be code in the traditional sense, but writing the steps in a bullet list is similar to writing pseudocode before writing actual code. It doesn’t run on a literal computer, but you run the code in your head. You are the CPU. Automation is putting process into code. A bullet list in a process docu- ment is code if it is treated that way. The second time the successful engineer did something manually, he followed his own documenta- tion. This might seem strange since he knew the process well enough to document it, but by following his own documentation, he found opportuni- ties to improve it. He made correc- LET ME TELL you about two systems administrators I know. Both were overloaded, busy IT engineers. Both had many repetitive tasks to do. Both wanted to automate these tasks. After observing these two people for a year, I noticed that one made a lot of progress, while the other one didn’t. It was not a matter of skill— both were very good software engineers. The difference was their approach, or mind-set. I would say the successful one had a mindset of always thinking in terms of moving toward the goal of a better automated system. Imagine an analog gauge that points to the left when measuring that a process is completely manual but slides to the right as progress is made toward a fully autonomous system. The developer mindset is always intent on moving the needle to the right. The less successful person didn’t write much code, and he had excellent reasons why: I’m too busy! The person who made the request can’t wait! I have 100 other things to do today! Nobody’s allocating time for me to write code! The successful person had the same pressures but somehow managed to write a lot of code. The first DOI:10.1145/3190572 Article development led by queue.acm.org A.B.A. = Always be automating. BY THOMAS A. LIMONCELLI Documentation Is Automation
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JUNE 2018 | VOL. 61 | NO. 6 | COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM 49 IMAGE BY PABLO PRAT traditional code, so to speak, but the process has become much more au- tomated. In the future these smatterings of command-line snippets will be com- bined into one big program that au- tomates the entire process. This tool will be used as the basis for a Web- based self-service portal. This will al- low users to do the task on demand, seven days a week, even when the sys- admins are asleep. Meanwhile, the other engineer, the one who was “too busy to write code,” is no closer to getting started. The difference between these two engineers is that one is willing to do work manually just to get the task done. The other is willing to do work tions and augmented the command- line snippets he had recorded.
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