In what’s become an annual tradition, I’m taking a post to think about the intersection of Cloud and Non-profits using my better-half’s employer, The Miracle Foundation, as my inspiration (and to help support their Mothers’ Day campaign).
Their deceptively simple sounding mission is to nurture children – they’ve just added some minor wrinkles like the children are orphans, in economically challenged areas generally tucked away in remote areas of India half way around the world from their Austin HQ. That does nothing to dampen their tenacious drive to ensure that these children have the benefits of food, health care, housing, education and, most critically, nurturing caregivers.
How does that relate to the Puppies & Cattle analogy?
Like any scalable operation, they need to create highly repeatable processes to deliver their service. The Miracle Foundation service, environments where house mothers nurture children, is by its very nature a “puppy” since each child must be treated uniquely; however, everything leading up to the point of delivery must be “cattle-like” to they can scale the care they give. For example, unique lesson plan is good while a unique chart of accounts is not.
Last year, I talked about how the Miracle Foundation was using quantitative measures to evaluate quality of care. They’ve used these metrics very effectively in their operations to identify places where they must standardize (like accounting practices, health care regimens and dietary requirements) and high touch places where they cannot (selecting and promoting homes out of incubation). Exactly like cloud deployments, success means finding places where variation creates complexity (cattle) and ones where it increases value (puppies).
I’ve been impressed to see how the Miracle Foundation identified the need for standardized house-mother training curriculum as part of this analysis. Their years of experience across a breath of orphanages has shown that giving clear guidance and setting standards for the people in direct contact with the children nets tremendous results; however, just making sure this training is delivered means building up a lot of other process and standardization.
If you think your job of building DevOps scripts and practice is hard then you need to step away from the keyboard for a while. This organization, and other non-profits like it, are taking on similar challenges with real people across distances that are more than just a few router hops from your desktop. I’m inspired by how they take on these challenges and fascinated at how much commonality there is between my work and theirs.