The popularization of the DevOps adoption strategy represented a true revolution for companies working in the IT area. DevOps provides ways of carrying out internal processes, especially in the relationship between development, security, and operations. These new working patterns enable greater productivity and help organizations achieve sustainable growth.
However, there's still a need to get to know DevOps adoption more in depth and its importance for technology organizations. This is the topic that we'll address in this post.
Let's start by recapping what DevOps is.
What Is DevOps?
By now, most of us understand that the challenges we face cannot be resolved by simply throwing a toolchain on top of it. DevOps, indeed, includes transformational change to the culture, mindsets, and working patterns throughout the organization.
Enterprises have traditionally segmented the people responsible for building technology from those responsible for running it. Doing so creates a conflict in incentives, with those responsible for building not feeling accountable for the quality of what they deliver and those responsible for running it feeling accountable for the speed of what is delivered. The end result of this model is more manual work (development, testing, builds, and deployments), and less collaboration and innovation.
With the help of a culture that provides support and enablement to teams across the organization we can begin our transformational changes and embrace DevOps.
You’ll need to understand the flow of value throughout all business functions, organize around those functional workgroups and instill the concept of cross-functional teams (sometimes referred to as full-stack teams). Providing team ownership and autonomy around a product(s) will reduce many of the traditional constraints we had experienced between Development and Operations teams.
Teams will now have the ability to streamline their software development and delivery. This does NOT remove any quality and security expectations, in fact, teams that own quality and security are able to adopt and implement these requirements much faster than traditional siloed organizations, as well as the overall software deliveries being deployed with reduced vulnerabilities.
DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users.
— Donovan Brown
What Are the Advantages of DevOps?
So, why should you adopt DevOps? Let's discuss the main advantages that DevOps brings to your organization. Knowing these will guarantee better results on a daily basis and surprising benefits for your company. Check out the main ones below.
One of the main advantages in adopting DevOps practices is Employee Happiness. When implemented properly, employees are provided the autonomy to improve process, patterns, and technology throughout the value stream. Through experimentation, learning, and ownership, these teams & individuals are engaged and have a sense of purpose. This assists in employee happiness which in turn creates a valuable culture, reduces churn, and attracts new talent.
Another advantage of adopting DevOps in your organization is the ability to improve flow. Flow improvements can consist of reduced bottlenecks, improved time to market, and the ability to quickly react to consumer demands. This enables competitive advantages in the market and can drastically reduce your cost of delay. Improving flow throughout your value stream allows agility within your delivery.
Therefore, the allotted agility provides a mechanism to experiment, learn, and achieve customer satisfaction at a rapid pace and will position your organization to stay well ahead of your competition.
The agility in the delivery process is essential for long term customer retention. Implementation of this strategy, together with the iterative delivery and automation, allows a greater involvement of the cross-functional teams.
Automation: An Ally For Repetitive Tasks
The benefits of automation are diverse and are even directly related to the cost reduction drivers mentioned above. However, automation benefits are not limited to cost savings.
In some cases, some ideas aren't feasible unless an efficient automation process is in place. This is because automating some tasks automatically frees up time and capacity so that developers can perform other important tasks for the delivery of the solution. It also encourages improvements like automated tests and code quality analysis in the company's internal environment.
In addition, automation is an important mechanism for reducing and avoiding errors that can compromise a project and delay delivery time [Lead time]. It also reduces the energy expenditure of teams, as team members start to become highly motivated on a daily basis. They then dedicate themselves to creative and analytical processes since they’re no longer consumed by toil.
To successfully implement DevOps, a company has to adapt to a new organizational culture — one that's more integrated with greater collaboration and communication between organizational sectors.
The advantage is that the market currently works in an integrated manner. Sector division[Silo’s] is no longer productive in a technological environment. It's necessary that the areas act in a synergistic and interconnected way.
That's why DevOps adoption is important: it is capable, by itself, of helping in this change. Adapting to new tools and upskilling employees for this new way of working leads, almost naturally, to a more modern, integrated, collaborative, and, consequently, efficient organizational culture.
Identify and promote your ‘North Star’ and the related organizational strategies.
Transformation at Scale
Now that your transformation is underway, you’ll need to focus on scaling the initiative throughout the entire organization. This includes business, technology, marketing, security, and many more segments of the company. Identify and promote your “North Star” and the related organizational strategies. This will include many critical conversations and promotion for the expectations to be clear, visible, and understood. Collect feedback on a regular cadence form the organization at large and make sure the vision is not lost within the multiple layers of management [middle management / the frozen middle]. Identify the grassroots efforts that are happening and support these critical efforts with top down collaboration. It is said that upwards of 70% of transformation efforts fail in large organizations. Lead with empathy, focus on enablement & learning, and ensure your people leaders take the role as barrier breakers that clearly understand the North Star and go outside the box to remove constraints for their teams. This is possible and Liatrio is here to help!
What Are the Main Challenges of DevOps Adoption?
We’ve discussed DevOps adoption and some of the advantages when implementing the necessary working patterns and modern technologies. Now, let’s discuss some of the challenges.
Transforming an organization's culture is probably the most challenging hurdle you’ll experience with any transformation effort. Chances are, you probably have many “grassroots” efforts happening throughout the multiple segments of your technology org. Capitalize on these initiatives and provide autonomy to the teams & individuals leading these efforts. Support these innovators, early adopters, and early majority and meet them where they’re at from the top down. The success of a cultural transformation relies on both top down and grassroots alignment.
Tools Alone Are Not Enough
As technologists, we often jump to tools to help us resolve challenges. While the appropriate tools are important, DevOps can not be defined by tools or a tech stack alone. We have to take a holistic approach to the DevOps adoption. This is difficult, changing long lived ways of working, examining & modifying the organization's structure, creating a “learning organization”, and empowering teams at all levels will prove to be challenging, but the dedication will drastically improve the success of your transformation.
Overcoming this challenge involves restructuring the work. Spend time making the work visible throughout your organization. You need to plan the flow of your products, prioritize and implement your org strategies. Oh, and don’t forget about your “North Star”, although certain narratives may change, it is critical to align all initiatives to the expectations of the north star. Implementing tools alone will not get you there.
Only from there should you look for the technological solutions that best fit your work style, the system you're working with, the organizational constraints, and the development goals of each product.
With this in mind, it becomes much easier to understand where automation and tools can be implemented to optimize your work.
Standardization of Environments and Data Usage
Regardless of the specifics of your projects, some things about DevOps are universal — for example, the need to standardize your platforms so that development and operations occur in sync. Pay attention to the developer experience when standardizing environments.
Technology modernization is a skill that is in great demand by companies that are hiring in the area, which should be improved now. The need, for example, to help maintain and evolve infrastructure and cloud native architectures is one of the strongest demands in the market.
DevOps is a perfect solution for this type of need, as the integration between development and administration of the systems being developed naturally shifts a technology organization toward the standardization and optimization of data and processes. This enables team ownership of their product(s) within standard environments.
Quality and Security
Perhaps the biggest shift for anyone adopting a DevOps approach is owning the quality & security of the product itself. As development goes hand in hand with the operations, it's not uncommon for professionals in the field to neglect some steps in more complex projects.
It's another rush-related problem: when the focus is on project deadlines and still meeting all the customer's needs, security can fall to the wayside. Changing the approach to understand that part of the “customer’s needs” includes a secure product. Traditional project management tends to focus on deadlines vs. quality, this must change. A product delivered with vulnerabilities is not a valuable delivery for your customers.
That's why many companies are now turning to DevSecOps, where all areas — development, security, and operations—work together and with common goals. Moreover, these segments of work should be shifted left and the product teams themselves own the majority of this work.
Success lies in bringing together technical and business expectations, such as investing in services that can safely drive productivity. After all, success is not just about well-written code but the ability to integrate quality into the entire value stream.
Some Initial Steps to Start DevOps Adoption
Change the Culture of the Work Environment
To succeed in adopting DevOps patterns, it's necessary to have cross functional teams since they will begin to take ownership of development, security, and operational functions of their product(s). For this integration to be successful, synergy and collaboration between the areas are essential.
Creating a learning organization is essential for long term success of the organization. Incentivising and investing in individual and team learning will not only help with quality value delivery to your customers, but it will also help with employee retention and new talent acquisition.
Many organizations are now focusing on immersive learning and enablement practices to upskill their teams. Commonly known in the industry as “Dojos”, companies are investing in these immersive learning practices to help teams create healthy team dynamics, modern engineering practices, modern technology adoption, and quality product delivery. Unlike traditional “training”, immersive learning focuses on team uplift on their actual work and within the existing organizational constraints. Through repetition and coaching support, the team grows and upskills together and the learning is effective for the long term.
If your teams haven’t already adopted solid continuous integration practices, emphasize this as an early priority. With continuous integration, code is routinely built and reviewed with a series of automated tests at each check-in. This prevents quality issues from moving further into later environments and provides early feedback which engineers correct right away. Furthermore, some of these tests should even be brought back to local development to hold themselves accountable for fast, cost effective feedback prior to pushing up their changes.
Automated tests must run continuously throughout the software delivery lifecycle.
Implement Test Automation
Automated tests must run continuously throughout the software delivery lifecycle. Developers should be primarily responsible for creating and maintaining automated test suites.The teams will own all aspects of development, quality, and security. Throwing any of this work “over the wall” to another team is an antipattern and should be addressed with high priority.
Continuous delivery should be a priority with every product team. The software must be in a deployable state throughout its lifecycle, and the team prioritizes keeping the software in a deployable state while working on new features. With solid continuous integration practices in place, the team will have confidence to deploy to production environments with every commit. Any impediments in the ability to continuously deploy should be made visible [Value Stream Mapping] and actively prioritized for removal.
There are numerous tools, practices and working patterns that your company can implement to achieve a successful DevOps adoption, so it is important to look for those that are capable of meeting all the demands and specifics of your company and culture. As you can see, the benefits will directly impact the overall results of your teams and consequently, the success of the business.
Don’t forget, your people are your number one asset in sustaining and growing the business. Take care of them, invest in them, enable & empower them!