Every DevOps expert has their own definition of what DevOps really means, but a common thread running through each definition is that it is based on collaboration and evolution of a culture of sharing and communication between IT and operations. How that collaboration is achieved has evolved rapidly, and in today’s most successful digital transformation initiatives, video integration is playing a significant role in improving that teamwork.
Success tactics in a DevOps initiative depends less on the specific tools and more on that theme of creative collaboration, yet many tools claiming a DevOps heritage actually do very little to facilitate that collaboration. Development platforms, for example, do achieve the goal of faster development, which is a goal of DevOps, but DevOps is less about the deliverable and more about the journey. Tools that facilitate better collaboration between teams, such as videoconferencing, lie at the heart of that DevOps journey.
How businesses handle issues such as videoconferencing decides, to a large degree, how effective and successful they are in a globally connected marketplace and how well they achieve the twin goals of faster software delivery and a final product that meets the needs of the business.
Solving the Essential Development Struggle
The fundamental development struggle is based on a constant battle between developers and line-of-business managers, who often have different goals and different perspectives on how to achieve those goals. Developers may not have a full grasp of the business goals of their projects, while the managers may fail to recognize the technical challenges being faced in delivering the final product.
Agile, lean and Scrum development strategies do help to hold the development team accountable to the desired timeline of the business, but beyond these tactics, simply understanding the “big picture” of the project is what makes it work and avoids developers getting bogged down in less important details. How, though, does the development team facilitate this understanding?
The obvious answer is collaboration, but how is that collaboration achieved? Emails? Nobody pays attention to them. Conference room meetings with whiteboards? People will pay attention half the time and then get bored. Team messaging tools? They do facilitate workflow and communication, but still often lack the real-time interaction necessary for getting a true understanding of the project’s requirements.
Videoconferencing Integration Meets the DevOps Challenge
New forms of collaboration have been a major catalyst for new development initiatives over the past year, with cloud-based systems have shown the greatest potential. Simple tools such as Office 365 or Google Docs allow users to share and co-edit documents, while Slack, Zoom and other communication tools allow for easy group communication. However, videoconferencing has been shown to have the greatest potential because of its real-time and highly visual nature, and its use has become much more practical with the ubiquity of 4G and high-quality cameras on smartphones and laptops.
DevOps is as much about creating a culture of collaboration and sharing as it is about specific development tools and tactics. Videoconferencing facilitates the cultural aspect of DevOps, an especially important factor given that teams are often in different physical locations. Even when those functional teams are in the same building, it is common for those teams to operate in a silo. Creating an inclusive and interdepartmental DevOps team is always the starting point, but getting those teams to communicate requires a cultural change—and a little boost from videoconferencing and other collaboration tools.
Integrating and Executing Videoconferencing in DevOps Environments
When it comes to video conferencing in the workplace, businesses have to stop taking a laissez-faire approach to integration and execution. While they may assume it’s as simple as plugging in a solution and getting to work, it often requires much more technical competence and involvement from the appropriate parties.
For starters, the IT department needs to be involved in its deployment. There’s a lot to consider from a technical perspective before you can even begin to think about details related to specific software solutions and platforms.
Cloud-based systems have made deployment of videoconferencing and other tools simple, and there is a growing tendency for departmental managers to source and deploy their own tools in a “shadow IT” approach. But since the goal is inter-departmental communication, in this case IT should play the central role in its deployment and execution.
One of the issues organizations need to think about is how the integration of video technology will affect current processes. The goal of video is to make things more efficient, not to drag processes down.
It’s also wise to consider how much videoconferencing will be used and whether it’s better to have multiple small-video equipped rooms or one larger, more expensive boardroom setup.
While IT involvement is vital for successful implementation and execution, it’s not the only factor involved. Failing to involve outside sources can actually result in an incomplete setup.
“IT departments are incredibly adept at managing network, servers, processes, and internal applications. They know their business and the needs associated with it,” noted videoconferencing provider IVCi in its blog. “However, in certain circumstances deploying videoconferencing can require an organization to act more like a service provider, rather than an IT department. IT departments are rarely experienced in video conferencing implementations and are forced to learn while doing.”
This lack of experience has become increasingly evident over the past few years—something that The New York Times recently exposed in a story on the lack of security in many videoconferencing systems in major organizations.
The article exposed a story in which a security chief assumed the role of “hacker” to find holes in his client’s network security. What he found was alarming. While companies spend millions on securing their networks, he was able to hack into multiple conference rooms relatively and control the cameras with relative ease.
“Many systems are sold, installed and maintained without any level of access security, with auto-answer enabled by default,” the “hacker” HD Moore said. “It boils down to whether organizations are aware of the risk, and our research indicates that many, even well-heeled venture capital firms, were not aware and do not implement even the most basic of security measures.”
It’s not just security, though. Many businesses simply don’t know how to use their video conferencing solutions. The IT department might understand how the system works, but individual users don’t even know how to start a video session. This results in cumbersome processes that reflect poorly on the business, especially when video is used in client-facing situations.
It’s Time to Take Video Seriously
While business leaders spend a lot of time talking about how to be successful with videoconferencing, in terms of knowing what to wear and how to interact with participants, very few take implementation, security and execution seriously. Until it’s given the priority it deserves, videoconferencing will lag in organizations.