DevOps has gone from a new idea to a buzzword in every boardroom over the last decade. With society increasing its reliance on digitization and pushing their preferences for speed and convenience, enterprises of all types have had to change their business culture to help their teams to work together with greater speed and autonomy.
While the pandemic has undoubtedly heightened the importance of DevOps in the workplace, its widespread use predates the last few years. HGS Digital research from as far back as 2018 found that only 3% of software development businesses had never heard of DevOps. The 2021: Future of the Atlassian Ecosystem report revealed that 54% of organizations have implemented a DevOps strategy—up from 48% in 2020. A further 27% of respondents are hoping to adopt a DevOps strategy in the next three years.
Indeed, DevOps is now mainstream, and the uptick in job listings for ‘DevOps engineers’—as well as enterprises’ quickness to tout their ‘experienced DevOps teams’—is perhaps further evidence of this. However, some of these postings and sentiments can also be considered red flags as they suggest that organizations are applying DevOps practices to isolated teams. Or worse, they are simply labeling traditional engineering roles with the DevOps label rather than implementing a complete mindset shift that applies to the entire organization and enables it to release reliable products at a much faster pace.
With this in mind, here are three key building blocks for enterprises looking to avoid common downfalls and effectively scale their DevOps strategies. These will help them change the way they work and think across all aspects of development and operations.
Changing Culture and Empowering Employees
Everyone needs to be on board for DevOps to be successful, and buy-in is strongly dependent on the business culture they are working within. For example, Gartner predicts that through 2022, 75% of DevOps initiatives will fail to meet expectations. And the reasons why have to do with issues around organizational learning and change.
To put it another way, if employees don’t understand DevOps’ deeper thinking and benefits both to them personally and to the wider group, they will naturally be resistant to the change. It is, after all, an entirely new way of thinking for many departments, especially operations teams who traditionally reduce risk by minimizing change and taking things slowly. DevOps encourages them to speed up with minor changes delivered through continuous integration operating in a fail-fast and often fail-forward pipeline.
Therefore, educating employees is vital for success. In particular, organizations should give staff a clear idea of how it will feel to work differently. Shared definitions of success, shared vocabulary and shared visibility of the work to be done is key. With that—and along with sharing actionable insights that teams can apply to their work and then observe the results—no matter where they are in the pipeline, the real value of DevOps can be achieved.
The reality is that people are the most critical component of any DevOps transformation, making their commitment to the cause non-negotiable for success. Despite the tech-heavy nature of software development, soft skills like communication, collaboration, flexibility and decision-making must be prioritized as much as security, coding and infrastructure knowledge. It’s imperative that all businesses look to adopt a DevOps mindset and implement these traits into their culture in the future.
Applying Four Fundamental Processes to the Foundation of DevOps
That said, a successful DevOps transformation can’t happen unless enterprises step away from traditional IT’s ‘trust but verify’ methodology. Instead, they must incorporate a set of essential processes that empower everyone to work more efficiently and effectively toward achieving faster, high-quality software delivery to suit the end-user’s needs. These fundamental processes include collaboration, automation, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) and monitoring.
While collaboration has been one of the most significant rallying cries for enabling globally distributed IT teams to align their goals and meet their objectives, automation has also been highly crucial. Many of those ingrained in DevOps environments will tell you that automation is what makes DevOps highly valuable. It helps teams achieve high levels of efficiency and allows employees to focus more on complex problems and less on repetitive tasks. When a company’s automation strategy is aligned with its broader business goals, it can help deliver value at scale.
But as is the nature of software development, problems can arise. And this is where continuous integration and delivery come into play; it forces developers to merge their source code updates with others far more frequently than they might otherwise choose to. Operations teams can ensure they’re not creating a bottleneck with manual testing to get releases out to users. The approach means smaller changesets; helping to identify, target and resolve bugs more efficiently. This increases the flow of work, the quality of releases and helps to avoid nasty problems at the end of the development cycle.
But there’s no point in having a speedy, heavily automated CI/CD process with a genuinely collaborative culture if enterprises don’t take the time to measure what’s working and assess which actions need to be improved. This is why an effective DevOps plan needs to be built on the mantra ‘implement, measure and improve’. After all, DevOps is about maximizing value and efficiency through increased visibility of work and constant feedback. Measuring real-time metrics becomes vital to ensure business’ transformations are in line with their objectives at all times. If enterprises stick to these fundamentals, they’re well on their way to a successful DevOps strategy with complete buy-in.
Adopting the Right Tools for Transformation
As teams grow and DevOps processes scale, predictable performance is imperative. Therefore, the enterprise’s tools must be available around the clock and should perform at a high level to support their collaborative pipeline.
But using DevOps tools doesn’t automatically mean organizations are applying DevOps principles. The value of tooling is limited by businesses’ commitment to using them holistically with the sort of culture and processes mentioned above. It is this combination that allows them to transition how they develop and deliver their products. With all that said, it’s important to understand how important it is to adopt the proper toolchain—and the wide variety of choices and combinations available—this is why it’s easy to understand why decision-makers might become overwhelmed.
After all, there’s a lot to keep in mind. They need to choose tools that step up their collaboration, keep context-switching to a minimum, aid automation, encourage visibility and allow for effective monitoring. But there’s also the risk that they’ll pick the solutions that they feel most comfortable with, which can be counterintuitive to transformation. This approach can lead to a tool binge, bringing on too much technology where integration isn’t a priority, and leaving enterprises with nothing that does the job they need.
With this in mind, enterprises need to take the time to consult on which tools are right for them while constantly keeping the fundamentals of DevOps in mind. To illustrate just how valuable this is, DORA and Google Cloud’s 2019 State of DevOps report found that the highest performing engineers are 1.5 times more likely to leverage easy-to-use tools. Meanwhile, failure to do this is perhaps a primary reason why a separate study from the DevOps Institute uncovered that the DevOps transformation journey is still arduous for more than 50% of respondents.
Taking the Next Step Toward DevOps
A successful DevOps transformation rests on in-depth understanding, mass buy-in and an organization-wide adoption of fundamental principles and practices. When this agile mindset is applied to the people, processes and tools that make up an organization, enterprises can drive significant change across their teams while increasing their products’ reliability, stability and security.
It’s always important to keep in mind who DevOps is designed to benefit the most—the customer. This mindset is particularly valuable in today’s landscape, where businesses and consumers alike are flush with more choice than ever. With speed and convenience now at the forefront of most people’s purchasing decisions, DevOps can play a huge role in helping organizations strive for greatness and offer the customer something they didn’t even know they needed. Using the above building blocks, organizations of all sizes can dramatically improve their customer experiences and work more efficiently to quickly get the right products into their hands.