There is a common misconception that Agile and DevOps cannot work together, which does a disservice to everyone in the software development and delivery field. In fact, both approaches can significantly add to the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection and adaption to better enable product teams to develop, deliver and sustain complex products. Both Agile and DevOps embody great ideas and enthusiasm that can add value to how teams work, ensuring the success of their organization in a world where business is both driven and disrupted by software.
For businesses to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by Agile and DevOps, both communities—the Agilists and DevOps professionals—need to rectify the misunderstandings between the two approaches that amplify the differences between them. They must understand why these myths permeate and learn how to overcome these barriers so Agile and DevOps can finally play nice in the sandbox.
Agile and DevOps: The Misunderstandings
Both Agile and DevOps pursue the desire to deliver value to customers in a more effective way, but from different starting points—Agile with the developer, and DevOps from operations. Their emphasis also varies, leading people to believe that they are different things: Agile emphasizes team interactions, culture and values, while DevOps emphasizes delivery pipelines and flow.
These apparent differences are further amplified by misunderstandings that do nothing but to pit the two approaches against each other:
- Some Agilists think all process is bad, while DevOps is steeped in a history of stability through process.
- DevOps uses tools and automation to increase speed, while some Agilists view tools as unavoidable at best and a distraction at worst.
- DevOps uses holistic systems to solve problems, while Agile uses people to drive change and discover it through work.
It is disheartening that these misunderstandings exist because Agile and DevOps share more in common than most realize. For instance, both include faster delivery cycles, smaller increments or releases and use feedback to improve and remove waste and impediments. Both approaches can also influence a cultural shift in an organization that promotes small changes that are easily manageable so they lead to bigger and better business outcomes over time.
If they are more alike than dissimilar, then what exactly is holding these two methodologies back from getting along?
Politics, Organizational Silos Widen the Gap
Organizational changes, such as new hires and managerial moves, etc., attract strong personalities who get recognized for driving change and who get rewarded when those changes produce results. When their success is tied to the success of either their Agile or DevOps program, competing political goals are deemed a threat and lead to confusion:
- Different tool strategies: How many times do you hear, “The Agile teams use JIRA, but the DevOps teams use Service Now”? These tools and the vendors selling them focus on a change initiative to drive purchases. This makes it even more difficult to integrate Agile and DevOps, as their data and processes are hidden within different tools.
- Politics rather than value to make decisions: The saying, “It is not what you know, it is who you know,” is not just true in national capitals, but in any organization. Politics is the reality of most organizations and that means that the associated initiatives not only come with baggage of the work, but also with the politics of who is driving them.
- Increased division and organizational conflict: Ironically, the DevOps and Agile movements call for unification and collaboration between different groups. However, when practiced, they can sometimes lead to even deeper gaps within traditional groups due to their different terminology and ideas.
Agilists consider process to be “emergent” in response to the needs of the situation. This means teams are empowered to make decisions about how they work via a light framework (such as Scrum) and then add any other process they think are needed to achieve more value and faster feedback.
DevOps traditionally takes a different tack, with a focus on systems thinking with flow models and value streams.
Despite the culture differences, Agile and DevOps need consistent language and concepts to work together, or else communication breaks down and collaboration suffers. This leads to alienated stakeholders, increased fear and defensive behavior, poor product and service quality, lack of transparency and visibility and, more painstakingly, never getting anything done.
Scrum Breaks Down the Barriers to Agile and DevOps
Delivering value to customers through software requires elements from both Agile and DevOps coming together in a comprehensive process that is fluid and enables the teams to work in a dynamic manner. Through Scrum that empowers cross-functional, business-oriented teams to deliver software continuously, work flows seamlessly between all the right stakeholders, in real time.
However, simply having cross-functional teams in your organization isn’t enough to make sure all involved are working in a holistic way to deliver customer value. Organizations need to make the right decisions about who should be in or out of a team, since different technologies require specialist skills and infrastructure to support it.
A cross-functional team must have all the competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others who are not part of the team, as described in the Scrum Guide, to deliver a working product.
As technology, market and environmental complexities and their interactions have rapidly increased, Scrum’s utility in dealing with complexity is proven daily—Scrum teams are highly flexible and adaptive so that they can deliver products of the highest possible value. When misunderstandings are put aside, and people learn to communicate with each other, cross-functional teams comprised of Agilists and DevOps with all the right skills can deliver done software, faster for your organization.