Presentation: The Trouble With Learning in Complex Systems

Track: Architecting for Success when Failure is Guaranteed

Location: Broadway Ballroom North, 6th fl.

Duration: 1:40pm - 2:30pm

Day of week:

Slides: Download Slides

This presentation is now available to view on

Watch video with transcript


The complexity of technology we actively design, build, and operate has eclipsed our ability to fully comprehend them. When continuous change is at the heart of our most precious systems, how do we balance protecting them while simultaneously improving the people and processes tied to making our tech more useful and valuable to end users as well as the business? A strong focus on learning as much about the system as possible is our best course of action, but learning requires both success and failure.  

In this talk, we’ll explore the challenges with learning in complex systems, the relationship between high and low stakes learning opportunities as well as the cost associated. Audience members will gain exposure to ideas and techniques to help to improve operational knowledge as well as mental models associated with our ever increasingly complex systems.  

By adapting to new methods of learning and creating space for more of our systems to be knowable, teams can remove the mask of process from our past to unveil a clearer view of the future.


What is the focus of your work today?


As a cloud advocate for Microsoft, I focus my efforts on coaching and mentoring technical organizations on managing IT in a cloud world. The area I focus on the most is around building resilient systems through modern incident management and retrospective analysis.


What’s the motivation for this talk?


Microsoft has given me the amazing opportunity to work with people all over the world. One thing I've noticed is that words that are commonly used in our industry don't have a common understanding or worse, are never examined for meaning. One such example is "complex systems", a term that is used very often within the tech industry. Despite this, when asked to define a complex system, the most important elements are rarely described. My hope is to begin to bring our community together on the reality of complex systems.


How would you describe the persona and level of the target audience? 


Senior IT Operations, System Administrators, and leadership. Although technical conceptually, this talk is less about technology and more about how people manage complexity especially in high stakes situations where opportunity for learning and improving are rare.


What do you want this persona to walk away from your talk with?


I'd like audience members to walk away with a more holistic understanding of complex systems and how to apply new methods of discovery and observability.

Armed with simple examples and language, perhaps we can all begin to build safer and more resilient systems.


What do you feel is the most important trend in software right now?


Serverless seems to be the most talked about technology currently. Followed by artificial intelligence and machine learning.  Within the advocacy group there's always a lot of discussion and focus on helping people understand what "serverless" actually means and how it can be used to solve specific problems.

Speaker: Jason Hand

Senior Cloud Advocate @Microsoft

Jason Hand writes, presents, and coaches on the principles and nuance of DevOps, Site Reliability Engineering, and modern incident management practices. Named “DevOps Evangelist of the Year” by in 2016, Jason recently authored a new book on the topic of Site Reliability Engineering. In addition to SRE, Jason has authored books with O’Reilly Media on the subject of post-incident reviews and Chatops.  

DevOpsDays Rockies organizer and host of the Front-range Site Reliability Meetup, Jason is dedicated to the latest trends in technology, sharing the lessons learned, and helping people continuously improve their IT and software development practices.  

Jason is also a co-host on the popular podcast, “Community Pulse” - a show on building community in tech.

Find Jason Hand at

Similar Talks