As companies such as Amazon and Google rapidly innovate to deliver new services, traditional service providers recognize that change is necessary to keep up with shifting customer expectations. Given the pace at which technology continues to morph, creating better, faster and more innovative solutions is a necessity, and if this isn’t achieved, even longtime customers will eventually look elsewhere.
For younger businesses, taking a collaborative approach to IT and product development often comes naturally as it’s built into the company’s DNA. However, for more established service providers, adapting to this new way of doing business can prove challenging. Traditional service providers have spent years perfecting their technology and require multiple layers of review prior to rollout. While these checks and balances are in place to ensure a level of quality customers have relied on for years and expect to receive from traditional providers, it also can hinder their ability to react quickly to client demands. However, the adoption of the principles embedded in DevOps can allow traditional service providers to work more like a startup by accessing their technology and human skills in a new way, while also continuing to deliver products which meet the expectations of their established customers.
Now the question is, how can traditional services providers successfully implement this DevOps approach? While it can (and has been) done successfully, there are five critical steps that need to be taken into account:
1) Establish a clear goal. The most important step is the first: Management must have a clear understanding of what they are looking to accomplish with the DevOps transition. Service providers have a long legacy of well-defined, reliable services, so all changes must complement their current product offerings and live up to the quality their customer base has come to expect. If an overall goal is not defined, customers will be left confused and disappointed, and ultimately, there will be no impact on the bottom line.
2) Set a timeline. While creating an unrealistic timeline is never advised, it is critical to set an aggressive, pragmatic and adjustable one. As mentioned above, without aggressively pushing forward, an organization will find itself continuously playing catch up to its competitors. The timeline is meant to push an initiative forward even when there are setbacks or changes that need to be made along the way. The right timing is a balancing act: too fast and you have a poorly crafted product rollout; too slow and you are stuck behind the competition. The key metric to measure progress is the degree of evolution to the DevOps model within key stakeholder organizations. If solutions are delayed due to existing processes, then either the scope of the team needs to be adjusted to encompass those processes or the goal needs to be changed so they are no longer an issue.
3) Collect necessary resources. Typically, the biggest gap that needs to be filled to move forward is with human resources. For many established companies, having design and architecture skills—core capabilities needed to develop a new product—hasn’t been a priority. Creating the right team that consists of new talent that have these missing skills, along with the addition of current employees who have a more intimate understanding of the company and customer, is a critical aspect in making sure this more collaborative and innovative approach to solution development and delivery works. And it doesn’t stop once the team is created, it is important to continue to foster an environment that encourages the new team to work together and promote their process within the broader organization.
4) Create benchmarks. To ensure the established timeline is being met and that there is an opportunity to change course if necessary, it is important to set clear deliverables at various stages of the process. These benchmarks must look to what people are doing today, not just the end goal. Initial measures should focus on the pace at which progress is being made, and later, focus on the end products being delivered.
5) Get the entire company on board. Changing an embedded philosophy isn’t easy, especially one that has worked well for so long. No matter the organization there is almost always resistance on some level when fundamental changes are being made. It is up to leadership and the DevOps team(s) to demonstrate internally and externally that the changes being made are not just for the sake of change, but in the end will benefit the entire company, as well as the customer.
While taking a deeper look at an organization’s “people, process, technology and information” and moving to a new mindset doesn’t happen overnight or come without its hiccups, the status quo is no longer sufficient to compete. The reality is, a more collaborative and faster delivery model is necessary to be successful in tomorrow’s marketplace.
About the Author / Tim Pearson
Tim Pearson is the director of product line management at Ciena. In his role, Tim leverages DevOps practices to break barriers in network delivery to meet the demands of mobile, VR and video applications. Driven by challenge and fueled by deep industry knowledge, he has built a reputation for developing innovative business and product strategies to drive growth and open new markets. Tim holds a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from Memorial University, a Masters degree in Management Science from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.