Understanding DevOps: Think of it as a culture, not a method

Dreariness in the IT department can be a major roadblock in the journey to success. DevOps looks to attack this problem like it’s never been done before. The DevOps philosophy is centered on the idea of collaboration between the development and operations groups within the organization. By developing a set of shared goals, DevOps eliminates the sources of friction between the two functions. This helps IT deliver software to end customers and internal customers much quicker than before, and in a more reliable manner. But the key to fully understanding DevOps is to see it as a culture you must nurture and not as a step-by-step method you can break down into granular details.

This is the era of blurring lines between business and IT. Today, every business has to operate, to a great extent, as a technology business. Software development becomes a great capability for businesses of all kinds, and not only IT companies. Companies are always under pressure to:

  • Do things faster
  • Be agiler in their practices
  • Maintain strong security practices
  • Deliver projects reliably

Key DevOps practices

Understanding DevOps
Flickr / Paul Downey

DevOps focuses immensely on standardizing processes that cut across software development and operations. Some of these processes are:

  • Application deployment and testing
  • Automation of configuration management
  • Application version control
  • Continuous integration to automate code builds
  • Fast feedback loops to enable quicker iterations of low-risk releases

The purpose of all these processes is not restricted to IT benefits. In fact, each of these processes helps companies develop software in a quicker and more reliable manner, ensure system security, make sure that frequent upgrades don’t cause problems to end users, and guarantee that employees are able to make use of advanced software features to do their work better.

DevOps as a culture

Considering how DevOps spreads across two crucial enterprise functions (development, and operations), it’s clear that you need leaders to manage it. IT organizations, as well as business organizations, need to get buy-in from the top, as well as the bottom, to make DevOps a success factor. Your DevOps staff needs to be comprised of people with tremendous communication skills. Also, these people must be prepared for challenges and possess cutting-edge people-management skills. DevOps aims to change the way people think, develop, and execute software. When people from development and operations have to wear different hats, they are able to see and imagine their roles in the larger scheme of things.

How to create and nurture the DevOps culture

Understanding DevOps means understanding the crucial components of the DevOps culture.

Super-quick and effective communication

DevOps team members need to be highly communicative, using multiple methods of communications, right from email to IM, telephone to video conferencing. The speed of info exchange is crucial to the success of DevOps, which requires your people to be quick decision makers in choosing whom to communicate to, and which medium to use for communication. Staying in touch, responding to messages quickly, and broadcasting the message to all stakeholders — that’s what keeps the DevOps spirit alive.

Problem-solving attitude

DevOps won’t exist if your development and operations people aren’t already brimming with a problem-solving attitude. Because DevOps erases the lines and definitions of responsibility distribution among different teams, it calls upon people to think “solution” and not “problem.” When unanticipated issues occur, your DevOps teams need to be able to prioritize and solve them in a manner such that business continuity is ensured. Instead of finding the “best person for the job,” DevOps call out people to think of how they can contribute to the solution.

Flexibility

We’ve touched upon the importance of agility in DevOps. To achieve process agility, DevOps requires the organization’s IT management to be more flexible that it’s traditionally been. IT project management is nefariously rigid; DevOps culture has no place for this rigidity. Your project management office, instead, needs to lead by example, promoting and rewarding people who show intelligent flexibility in their work and to drive business benefits of out of IT practices.

Let’s look at some more important aspects of how understanding DevOps will help you implement it as a cultural shift and not merely a mechanism.

Management buy-in

When you start off on the DevOps journey in your company, you need management buy-in to send out strong messages across the board. Ideally, the CTO or CIO of the company should clearly commit to DevOps and endorse its benefits. It doesn’t stop there; for DevOps to be successful, you also need to make sure that application developers and operations managers also understand and appreciate how DevOps benefits them. DevOps can be applied to almost every part of the IT development life cycle.

Team building should always be a focus

We covered some core constituents of DevOps in an earlier section. Communication skills, problem-solving attitude, and flexibility — these are the key skills to look for in people for your DevOps teams. Also, you’ll need to carefully identify people who can be promoted to bigger roles. Simultaneously, you will need to hire external DevOps consultants and experts to speed track the DevOps transformation.

Start small to make it big

Pilot projects are a great way for your organization to develop a level of comfort with DevOps. Choose a project that has ample viability, but something that won’t disrupt business should there be a delay in delivery. System upgrades and customer portal implementations are good examples. By delivering quantifiable results within a well-designed project scope can help you promote the DevOps idea for more widespread adoption and implementation within the enterprise.

Understanding DevOps: Why it is a top priority

A GitLab survey of more than 5,000 software developers, CTOs and IT employees revealed that DevOps featured as the top priority for them for 2018. It’s understandable, how business clamors for IT to stand up, and deliver software as quickly and as reliably as business people need it. Operational managers, traditionally, require IT to follow well-defined processes, to ensure security and reliability in the project delivery. DevOps tries to blend all requirements and bring about a cultural paradigm change to enable delivery of IT projects quickly, as well as reliably. By understanding DevOps and what it really is, you are well on that road.

Featured image: Flickr / Elizabeth K. Joseph

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