Many organizations—or even teams within organizations—are attempting to embrace DevOps. The operational and strategic advantages of DevOps over traditional business methodologies make it a virtual business imperative. One of the prevailing ideas about DevOps is that it’s about a culture shift more than tools and principles—and a big part of that culture shift is making sure everyone is on the same page.
Rally Software—which was acquired by CA in May of 2015—provides software and services to help customers succeed with Agile development. One of the main components of the services side is to educate customers about the importance of working in harmony and guiding customers through a process called Big Room Planning. DevOps is a natural extension of Agile development principles to the rest of the business, so Big Room Planning can be an effective tool for DevOps just as it is for Agile development planning.
I spoke with Steve Wolfe, director of Product Marketing for Rally, who explained the goal of Big Room Planning is to teach customers how to be more collaborative and help them get to a position where they’re able to respond faster to customer demand or market pressure. The idea is to foster an environment of collaborative planning that brings in the whole organization.
“At Rally we’ve learned that delivering the most value from your software usually requires multiple, coordinated development teams—often distributed—working together and with the business,” Wolfe noted in a blog post. “Building software at this level is complicated, with a lot of moving parts, dependencies and competing priorities.”
Many organizations—particularly organizations that already are familiar with Agile development—understand the value of consistent feedback and frequent iterations. Collaboration is a keystone of Agile. However, when you take that to a broader scale with DevOps, it becomes critical that all parties impacting—or affected by—the project be represented in the collaborative effort.
Wolfe noted even in companies that use Agile development effectively, problems arise when teams work in isolation. Teams create plans that they agree on in their group, but aren’t realistic or don’t align with broader business goals. Meanwhile, other teams or departments don’t feel committed to plans they had no part in creating. The result is more like the traditional business model than DevOps: You end up with a situation in which any one team can halt progress and create a bottleneck.
The Big Room Planning approach is intended to address that problem. The entire organization must be engaged, with full support from all of the affected roles and departments in the planning process. As the name implies, you need to get everyone together in a big room (or virtually via web conferencing, if necessary) and collaborate on a grander scale to make sure everyone agrees with and is committed to the plan.
Wolfe also stressed that leadership support is essential. He recommends finding someone to champion the concept—an executive to lead the Big Room Planning effort. In and of itself, this idea doesn’t seem all that revolutionary; common sense dictates that development will flow more smoothly and business will function more effectively when everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals. The crucial part is to not take it for granted and to use a strategy such as Big Room Planning to ensure more effective cooperation and collaboration.