Cloud/DevOps Transformation and the Lawn Improvement Project

By: Satyan Prakash

Background

Transformation projects are challenging and Cloud/DevOps transformations are no exception. Having been associated with many DevOps and Cloud transformation projects I recently found a very nice metaphor in my personal life, so I thought of sharing it with you. I recently moved into a house in a new development which had a patch of land. This piece of land allowed me to rediscover the gardener inside me as I had spent most of my childhood in a small town with a huge tract of land on which I used to spend plenty of time gardening. The focal point of attraction on this patch of land was supposed to be a nice green lawn so I started with my lawn development project. Little did I know what I was heading towards. We quickly found a lawn development service at a very reasonable price and handed over the work to them. Finally, a lush green lawn turf was laid out on the bare patch of land and we were all very happy to have a nice green recreational area in our backyard. I started spending hours putting a wide variety of plants and trees to enhance the beauty of the lawn. Back there at my place there was nothing special we used to do to maintain the lawn and it used to appear every year without any effort. I assumed the same with this new lawn and did not do anything special to maintain it other than mowing and watering.

Problems Started to Appear

We were heading towards autumn by this time and all of autumn it was unusually rainy. By the time winter started to approach the lawn was full of bare patches in multiple places and it lost its original greenly carpet look. I started searching on the internet for any possible reasons and found some tips to put a seed and feed mix on the lawn. I promptly arrived at a popular DIY store and approached the garden section in search of the seed and feed mix. It was my turn to get surprised to find at least 15-20 different varieties of lawn feed available there. Some of them were supposed to make the lawn thicker, some were promising to make it greener quickly, some were for shady area lawns, some promised to fix the patches, some were all-in-one solutions to kill the weed and fix the lawn issues at the same time. My head was spinning by the time I reached the last aisle of the garden section. Completely perplexed I quickly picked up the cheapest seed and feed mix I could get and returned home. I promptly applied the mix to the lawn the next day and started waiting for the magic to happen. I waited for a week but nothing happened. Another month passed but no improvement was visible in the lawn at all. It was very clear that the quick fix solution I had bought for my lawn (the legacy system) had not worked. By the time a lot of new neighbours started to shift in my vicinity and most of them deployed nice new lawns and started to post very nice and green lawn snaps in the local WhatsApp group we had made. I started to have sleepless nights looking at the condition of my lawn.

The Consultant with the Magic Wand

The condition of my lawn had started to impact my mental health by this time as I had lost all hopes of reviving my lawn. My family started to get worried about me looking at my condition and they started telling me that I have become obsessed with the lawn. One fine day a friend visited me and when I discussed the problems of my lawn with him he suggested a lawn services company LawnThumb (actual name replaced) which was very popular in his area. I checked LawnThumb’s website and they had excellent recommendations. They had different packages to revive the lawns and promised to fix any kind of lawn problem like a breeze. I fixed an appointment with LawnThumb and a consultant from LawnThumb arrived at the agreed time to inspect my lawn. After spending about 5 minutes in my lawn the consultant confidently declared that he has a solution to revive my lawn. As per him he was an expert in this area and he knew that the houses constructed here were on a landfill site and hence the clay soil used to fill the land was the root cause of my lawn issues. I was quite reassured though I was wondering how he arrived at the finding without even checking the soil. The consultant showed me various packages available for reviving the lawn and suggested the most suitable and affordable package for me. He quickly fixed a schedule for lawn treatment and assured me that I would notice the improvements in the lawn just a few weeks after the first treatment. Very soon another LawnThumb expert came to provide the first lawn treatment and I started to wait for the magic to happen. One week passed but there was no improvement in the lawn. Another week passed and I started to check my lawn from all possible angles to notice any signs of improvement. I lost my patience by this time and lodged a complaint with LawnThumb. The consultant from LawnThumb promptly arrived to inspect my lawn and confidently declared that there is some improvement. He also suggested that the improvement may be a little slow as it was still quite cold and advised me to wait for the second treatment. Very soon the second lawn treatment was also given and a few weeks passed but still there was no sign of improvement. By this time, I had completely lost my patience and again started to have sleepless nights comparing my lawn to the lush green lawns of my neighbors. I started talking to many of my neighbors and friends trying to decipher the issue with my lawn. Some of them suggested the issues may be because of poor groundwork done (poorly developed solution) before laying out the lawn turf. They also suggested that feeds given by LawnThumb may not completely fix my lawn problems due to problems with the groundwork and I may have to either redo my lawn or take a different approach to fixing the issues. I promptly lodged another complaint with LawnThumb and this time when the consultant arrived I gave him a piece of my mind armed with all my latest acquired knowledge on lawns. The consultant had to admit that I would have to redo the lawn to permanently fix my lawn problems. Having realized that I have been taken for a ride, I terminated my agreement with him and decided to try to fix the problems myself.

Not Feasible to Redevelop the Solution

At this stage I had two options. I could have deployed another consultant to completely redo my lawn which would have been very costly and outside my budget. The second option was to try to fix the problem myself based on various suggestions given by my neighbors and friends. I decided to go for the second option keeping my budget in mind.

Home Grown Solution starts with a Proof of Concept

Based on the suggestions I had received there were many aspects of the solution. The soil underneath the lawn turf was clay soil and hence very dense and compacted, leading to poor drainage. This was the root cause of my lawn problems which led to many patches on the lawn and poor grass growth in general. The lawn had to be first aerated but this would have been very costly had I chosen to get it done from outside. After doing some research on Amazon I bought a cheap pair of aerator sandals which would do the job. The second aspect of the solution was to reseed to allow the grass to thicken and fill up bare patches. The third aspect of the solution was the lawn feed itself and I decided to go natural here with a mixture of compost and soil. This was backbreaking work and required a major chunk of my leisure time which I would have spent with my family otherwise. Hence it was time now to discuss my adventurous plans with my family. On hearing my plans, my family got a little concerned that I might end up injuring myself. Also they were not very confident that my plan would work so they challenged me. Finally, after a lot of arguments I was allowed to do a POC (Proof of Concept) on a small part of my lawn. The deal I had with my family was that I would be allowed to implement my plans on the complete lawn only if the plan worked on that small part of the lawn. I breathed a sigh of relief and started implementing my solution on that small part of lawn. It was a few weeks after I implemented my solution and the lawn finally started to improve in that small area. Another few weeks and that patch of lawn was the best part of my lawn. My solution had succeeded.

Trying to Scale up the Solution

Now that my POC was a success, I was given permission to scale up my solution to the whole lawn. It was quite a lot of work so I started to implement the solution on the worst areas of my lawn phase by phase in a staggered manner. The lawn was looking much better by now but some portions of it had still not recovered. One day, I may still have to get my lawn fully or partially redone. For now, I have learnt to make peace with my lawn and am enjoying it.

Learning

So, what is the moral of the story? The cheapest solution is not always the best solution. A quick fix solution may not always work and even if it works, it may have unintended consequences. Consultants may have impressive credentials, but only you know your problems best. You need to work with consultants to customize their solution based on your needs and track whether the project is going in a direction you want. For unproven solutions, POCs are the best way to experiment and find out what works and what does not. Once you have proven the solution, it’s easy to scale up. Sometimes it’s better to completely refactor or rewrite parts of your solution but always do this in iterations to reduce the risk. 

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