This is Part Four in a four-part series. In Part One, I focused on the critical first step of defining DevOps with a purpose by thinking about DevOps in the context of your organization’s applications. In Part Two, I provided four tips to fostering a DevOps culture in your organization. In Part Three, I discussed the role of tools and how they can amplify (or constrain) individual and team abilities as well as work across teams.
In this final fourth part of the series, I’m going to weave the three previous topics of (A)pplications, (C)ulture, and (T)ools together and will show how you can ACT with purpose to start your own DevOps transformation. Your DevOps strategy should incorporate all three aspects of applications, culture, and tools. Given the breadth of those three areas, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed from the start. Here’s a tip I learned from a mentor a few years ago. Whether you are a CEO, VP, or team leader, smart leaders set a vision (often at least two or three years out) and then they make small decisions every week with the goal of generally moving the organization or team in the direction of the vision over time.
I recommend first that you set a vision for DevOps as it relates to your Applications, your Culture, and your Tools. Let’s begin with Applications. In the first article, I shared the concept of the pace-layering model developed by Gartner. To set a DevOps vision for your applications, place each of your current applications into one of the three layers – system of record, system of differentiation, or system of innovation. Then, do the same thing for any applications you are planning to add to your portfolio.
With that context, specific to your organization, formulate a strategic vision for how DevOps will apply to your systems in each layer. Will you seek to have DevOps principles for continuous integration and continuous delivery in place for all of your systems of innovation, and if so, by when? How about for systems of differentiation? Will DevOps be the norm for each of those applications or just some, and by when? Then ask yourself the same questions about your systems of record.
Next, turn to your culture. In Part two, I discussed the importance of baselining the degree of collaboration you have between the business, dev, and ops as well as how you view work (in workstations or in end-to-end flow terms). Then I challenged you to incentivize people to modify their behavior both with respect to their roles and as individuals. With this as context, define your DevOps cultural vision. What does collaboration between the business and development look like in the future? What does collaboration look like between development and operations? How about between dev, QA, and ops? And let’s not forget security.
How will you recognize when your culture is optimized for flow? For example, I recommend documenting a set of indicators that you can measure at regular intervals (e.g. quarterly). Here are three good ones. How much work-in-process (WIP) do we have for Application X today vs. how much was there a quarter ago? What is the average time it takes from the definition of a requirement to its deployment in production today vs. a quarter ago? How often did we make updates to Application X in production this quarter vs. last quarter?
Now, let’s consider tools. Take a baseline of the tools you are using today for each step of the typical DevOps tool chain from requirements management to source code control and bug tracking through to build management, automated testing, configuration management and deployment. And don’t forget project management tools too. What is the state of your tool investment in each of these areas? Do you have gaps? Do you have multiple tools in the same area, and, if so, is that okay or do you want to standardize on one? Do your tools vary based on the applications they are used with (see pace-layering discussion above)?
Then take an inventory of your collaboration tools across dev and ops. Are you still mostly using email and sharepoint sites? What role does instant messaging play in your dev and ops teams today? What about conference calls and meetings? Once you’ve baselined where you are today, set a vision for where you want to be in the future. Are you looking to reduce the need for conference calls and meetings, and if so by how much (time or average number of participants)? What issues are you running into around email and IM communications that need to be addressed and also for SharePoint? Have you looked at the emerging class of DevOps collaboration tools and concepts such as ITinvolve and ChatOps? What role can they play in streamlining communications, keeping people informed, and presenting information to staff so they don’t have to go hunting around for it in dozens of systems or call more meetings?
With this as background, define your DevOps tools vision by setting priorities for filling identified gaps and rationalizing existing investments, then set a general target time frame for each area.
Now that you’ve set a vision in each area – (A)pplications, (C)ulture, and (T)ools, it’s time to ACT. I recommend you first pick one or two applications to begin your DevOps journey. Ideally, they should be applications that are visible to the business and where you can lay claim to the impact DevOps can have on business goals like time-to-market and responsiveness to customer needs.
Once those applications are identified, take an inventory of all the people across your organization (including the business), those responsible for the development and delivery of the applications. Develop a specific plan for how you will educate those individuals on DevOps principles (e.g. attend DevOpsDays, read The Phoenix Project, read a sets of articles and watch a set of seminar or demo recordings), and also develop a specific plan for how you will incentivize behavior changes for their roles as well as what is expected of first line managers to take individual personalities, skills, and experiences into account.
Let me also stress that you shouldn’t ignore the people who aren’t participating in this first DevOps effort as part of your communications. Educate them as well, for example through an all-hands meeting and an email from leadership. Explain why the company is investing in DevOps transformation, why these applications have been chosen, and your long-term vision across Applications, Culture, and Tools to realize the transformation. Help them understand where the organization is going and why, and how it may impact them in the future. Avoid the perception that “the best people were picked for this and you are not among them” or that this group of people is being given license to do things that others can’t (e.g. make changes outside of the standard change management process) – otherwise, you risk reducing morale, good people leaving, and even sabotage of your DevOps efforts.
Once you’ve completed the above, map the relevant tools you have in place today for managing the development and delivery of these applications as well as the tools on your vision roadmap defined above that will be added or rationalized in the next six months.
By following the above recommendations, you will now have an action plan for the near term and a long-term vision you can use to guide daily decisions to move you closer to that vision. Lastly, don’t be rigid about your short-term plan or long-term vision, recognize that everyone is learning, including you, and that one of the key principles behind DevOps is the feedback loop!
Thank you for reading this series. I hope it’s been useful to you on your DevOps journey. If you have a question or just want to share a comment, you can do so here on DevOps.com or send me an email at email@example.com.
Best wishes on your DevOps journey!