One of the things that has bemused me from day one of the DevOps movement is how culture is viewed with an odd dichotomy. It is simultaneously DevOps’ greatest strength and its greatest weakness.
Of course, there is a simple and reasonable explanation for this phenomenon. DevOps wants to change culture. Cultures that are resistant to change are typified as “bad” and those that are not are typified as “good.” It is never that simple, but that’s how the portrayal goes.
After a decade, you would think we’d have massive IT culture change supporting DevOps initiatives at one level or another (somewhere on a scale from pilot project to corporate standard) pretty much everywhere.
But data seems to indicate that this is not the case. Disclaimer here: I fall more on the “automation” side of the “What is DevOps, really?” question. I don’t think that matters here, since I’m pointing at data from the DORA “State of DevOps Research Report,” which is 1,900 of you all speaking, not me.
Most of the coverage on this report is by people who have bet their entire career on DevOps—a solid bet, but one that can lead to stilted coverage, which takes all the positives and hoists them high. And there is a lot of positive to be found. But I’ve noticed a trend of not looking at the data with a critical eye. The bit that I’d like to focus on today is what DORA labels “Firmographics”—a breakdown of respondents by title.
Only 27 percent of those who responded were on a DevOps team. Presumably because Google is a sponsor of DORA, it included Site Reliability Engineering with DevOps teams, and that’s a fair inclusion, since SREs by definition are doing DevOps.
Consider that data point representing “culture change” in a world where the respondents are, by self-identification, doing DevOps. Some will argue this is the wrong way to look at it, but one of the issues that culture people bring up constantly is breaking down silos and organizing around product or product portfolio instead of development and operations. But it seems more as though organizations are knocking holes in silos and communicating through them—which means we should pay more attention to that style of DevOps and quit harping on organizational change. Again, this fits well with my world view, which has always been “That specialist in a shared bit of hardware is not moving to a DevOps team.” The EMC specialist (for example) adds value to the entire org because of their domain-specific knowledge, not because of their deep understanding of the entire DevOps toolset. Once you’ve carved out exceptions for storage, networking and platform specialists, moving everyone to a DevOps team is pretty moot.
I won’t conjecture why only 27 percent are moved into dedicated teams, nor why that number did not go up from 2017. I have a predilection toward “because it’s not necessary,” but likely there will be two camps when this discussion gains steam because more reports show a low rate of change—Group A will be, “Because those people are resisting change,” while Group B will be, “Because those people don’t feel they need change.” Guess what? That will be the same group of people, and that angle of discussion will be irrelevant. The important bit will be, “Are you completing everything you need to get done, and what is your structure?” That’s where the meat of the discussion will need to occur. Because by deduction, 73 percent of people participating in the DORA survey are doing DevOps while not being on a dedicated (eg: reorged) team.
And that’s perfectly okay, as long as they’re achieving the goals, that’s what matters. The how is useful when deciding to move in a certain direction, but delivering is the thing IT should—and generally is these days—be gauged on.