It seems IT practitioners haven’t realized yet the scale of digital disruption. Mired in the old IT thinking, they firmly believe that sophisticated tools are all businesses need to survive the ongoing digital disruption waves. Most of them warn, “Digital transformation is changing the way we do business, the way we deliver IT services must change, businesses need to adapt the way they work.” The problem is, there’s nothing new in what they offer to help businesses work the “right” way.
Indeed, the same old IT thinking’s practices are still applied with the illusion that deployment automation and configuration management tools on their own will make businesses agile, responsive to market opportunities, and therefore in line with the digital economy’s competitive challenges. That belief misses the point for two reasons: First, it’s an incorrect understanding of what business agility is, and second, it’s a misunderstanding of the global competitive environment’s transformation.
Turning your IT organization lean and agile is the competitive differentiator your business lines desperately have been calling for. Authentic DevOps implementation is the way to go. That’s the price to pay to keep up with the pace imposed by new leading-edge companies such as Google, Apple, Uber and the like.
The changing competitive environment forces businesses to focus on innovation, market responsiveness and timely revenue
A digital economy threatens the existence of all businesses. Yes, you read it right, their existence is at stake. And that fact is underestimated by IT vendors and consulting firms.
As illustrated, we’re shifting from business environments where established businesses (incumbents) control a large percentage of market segments to competitive contexts where, attracted by the amazing digital opportunities and the adoption of cloud which significantly reduces infrastructure expenses, a growing number of startups disrupt entire industries:
The proliferation of startups created by highly qualified unemployed seniors and creative entrepreneurs, coupled with the propagation of highly innovative digital services (e.g., Internet of Things [IoT] applications) substituting traditional services, have been disrupting the vast majority of industries.
Several examples substantiate that fact: the taxi industry shaken by the emergence of technology-driven companies such as Uber, the banking industry facing new breed of competitors including PayPal, Google and Apple; and the healthcare industry increasingly disrupted by companies such as GlowCap.
To grow and prosper in the digital era, your scale, brand equity or market capitalization aren’t enough anymore. To succeed, your business lines must be on top of the digital economy’s competitive standards: competitive innovation (the ability to continuously improve customer experience), market responsiveness (the ability to deliver added-value services to the right market segments at the right moment) and timely revenue (the ability to continuously increase customer value).
The digital economy has taken IT to an inflection point—deploying sophisticated tools isn’t enough; being lean and agile is the way to go
The obligation for business lines to focus on innovation, market responsiveness and timely revenue is unprecedented for techies; it forces them to think beyond tools and address issues as unusual as organizational and operational effectiveness.
Indeed, innovation, market responsiveness and timely revenue assume greater cross-functional collaboration, IT focus on business priorities, organizational flexibility and accelerated time to market. Make no mistake, you’ll never achieve them by only deploying tools, but by also making your IT operating model flexible through proactively eliminating the organizational and operational dysfunctions that prevent cross-functional collaboration, fast problem-solving and decision-making.
That’s what is meant by making the business agile.
The new IT thinking is summarized in that simple arithmetic: Digital Competitiveness = Lean and Agile Operating Model + Effective and Efficient Tools. Without the lean and agile operating model, innovation and timely revenue are wishful thinking. Without effective and efficient tools, innovation and market responsiveness are wishful thinking as well.
The organizational and technological dimensions are complementary. Adam Jacob, Chef’s CTO, confirms that fact in a very informative article, “The Secret of DevOps: It’s Always Been About People, Not Technology.” This is where DevOps can help businesses succeed.
DevOps is the IT asset businesses need to succeed in the digital economy
Contrary to a now (unfortunately) established belief, DevOps isn’t a technology; Chef, Puppet, Jenkins, OpsWorks, alike aren’t DevOps, they’re only pieces of it. It’s important to be clear about it.
As I’ve been implementing it, DevOps is a system of principles, practices, roles and responsibilities, governance structure and tools purposely arranged to establish cross-functional collaboration, enable accelerated applications delivery and, in turn, make the business responsive to market opportunities:
As illustrated, DevOps as a business capability is made up of three components: the Rules of the Game, the IT Operating Model and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP). Let’s explore them.
DevOps Rules of the Game create the conditions for lean and agile IT environments
Rules of the Game are a fundamental dimension of DevOps: They enable the establishment of lean and agile environments. I refer to them as the DevOps non-technological piece.
In practical terms, they’re a set of principles, practices, roles and responsibilities and tools institutionalized to ensure accelerated applications delivery.
They serve as catalysts to specific organizational and operational effective practices. Let’s take the principle, “Facilitate with system thinking (involvement of all relevant stakeholders)”—it forces application development stakeholders to adopt a collaborative mindset, which in turn breaks down organizational silos to eliminate the impediments to operational flexibility and institutionalize cross-functional collaboration.
They’re the poor cousin of today’s DevOps practices, which ignore them in favor of more technical and technology issues. That’s a terrible mistake that reduces DevOps influence vs. the digital economy’s challenges.
The agile IT Operating Model establishes the lean and agile work environment
The IT Operating Model reflects the interactions that take place across your application development value stream. In practical terms it represents the work environment derived from the application of DevOps’ rules of the game.
I always remind my clients that DevOps’ rules of the game aren’t theories, they’re the foundations of a tangible strategic capability: the lean and agile IT environment. They demand a thorough transformation of your application development work space to put together business, application development, and operations:
The picture illustrates what’s meant by lean and agile IT environment, it substantiates Adam Jacob’s point that “Fundamentally DevOps is about taking the behaviors and beliefs that draw us together as people, combining them with a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, and using that knowledge to ship better products to our customers.”
The IT operating model is the poor cousin of today’s DevOps practices which ignore it in favor of more technical and technology issues. Once again, it’s a terrible mistake that reduces DevOps influence vs. the digital economy’s challenges.
Make no mistake, technology matters, the CDP helps to meet digital technologies challenges
The importance of the rules of the game and the resulting IT operating model don’t suggest at all that technology doesn’t matter. Make no mistake about it, the CDP is essential; I refer to it as the DevOps technological piece. Through deployment automation and configuration management tools, it significantly accelerates application development, testing, resources provisioning and deployment.
However, one thing to be aware of is, digital economy raises technological challenges that transcend speedy delivery issues. They include:
- The importance of IoT
- The pivotal role of predictive analytics
- The increasing importance of APIs
As a matter of fact, IoT devices generate massive data and making use of it to generate revenue requires big data technologies to integrate, automate and analyze them.
On the other hand, this ocean of IoT data has generated an API business; the idea is, to monetize their data and generate revenue, businesses must provide their customers and partners with APIs that easily give access to their systems.
Implementing the CDP as part of PaaS cloud services can help to prosper in the digital economy; it allows businesses to benefit the cheap and on-demand computing, storage and network resources provided by the cloud.
In hindsight, with a business-oriented perspective, the ITaaS delivery model and DevOps follow the same goal: Provide business lines with the lean and agile IT environments they need to be flexible enough and responsive to meet the competitive challenges of digital economy:
Like DevOps, the ITaaS delivery model (…) takes advantage of an agile IT operating model to help businesses succeed in the digital era. It implements consumer-provider relationships across the IT value stream to ensure organizational flexibility and operational agility.
CIOs must realize that what matters to the business is to continuously generate revenue through improving customer experience and increasing customer value. Deploying applications at the speed of light for the sake of speed doesn’t make sense from a business perspective; as long as expected business benefits aren’t achieved, speed is a useless gadget.
Implement DevOps as what it is: a three-dimension IT capability including rules of the game, IT operating model and, of course, continuous delivery pipeline.