DevOps is the buzzword of the moment. It’s at the heart of every strategy—not just CIOs’ IT transformation strategies but also IT vendors’ sales and marketing strategies. The question business unit leaders always ask is, “Is DevOps to improve IT or to boost the business?”
The disconnect is so big between the concerns of today’s DevOps practitioners and business unit expectations on one side and digital competitive challenges on the other that the question is worth asking. Indeed, the proliferation of tech startups and digital services is making competition tougher and forcing business unit leaders to adopt innovation, velocity and timely revenue as their top competitive advantages, helping them to survive their industry disruption and then boost their digital growth.
Let’s say it straight: The many DevOps and even cloud migration projects out there aren’t likely to help business units effectively address the digital economy’s challenges. Automating your application deployment processes with infrastructure as code and continuous delivery infrastructure on their own will never make your company an innovation champion or equip it with the fastest time-to-value in the world. That erroneous belief is nurtured within the IT community; it’s the tangible proof that IT still doesn’t understand the business. Period.
Joe McKendrick, in his fantastic, “The Elusive Mystique of the Digital Enterprise,” and, “Cloud Computing’s Second Act is All Business,” offers insights likely to help business unit leaders remind their CIOs the business reality, “What matters is revenue.” IT innovation for the sake of innovation doesn’t make sense. And Adam Jacob, co-founder and CTO of IT automation company Chef, in a fantastic article, “The Secret of DevOps: It’s Always Been About People, Not Technology,” gives a DevOps vision that’s totally in line with business unit expectations more importantly to more effectively address digital competitive challenges.
Adam Jacob’s System of Thought: The Foundations of DevOps’ Second Act
Adam Jacob defines DevOps as:
Fundamentally being 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.
Notice that I don’t mention technology, which may be surprising coming from the CTO of a DevOps-focused company.
Tools matter. But tools exist in service of the prime directive: building highly functioning, highly effective cross-functional teams, that attack your thorniest business problems as a unit, rather than as lone individuals or silos with competing incentives.
This perspective of DevOps unveils an authentic business thinking for IT that I turned into a digital business approach:
It’s represented through the above virtuous circle of principles structured around customer:
Customer is the source of digital wealth: This expresses the proven belief that being customer-focused increases service quality, keeps customers loyal and, in turn, increases his value of the money they spend to buy services. It prevents customer churn caused by changing consumption habits, whereby digital services are increasingly preferred to traditional services.
People make, create and innovate: This principle translates the proven idea that giving staff skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, and holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their qualification and satisfaction and ultimately make them committed to the organization’s wealth. It creates work environments and work styles conducive to innovation.
Behaviors and beliefs strengthen involvement and commitment: This principle highlights the demonstrated notion that sharing common beliefs, principles and values creates team spirit, which increases cross-functional collaboration and, in turn, accelerates problem-solving and decision-making. It contributes to the business agility.
Product is the digital wealth driver: It’s the now-acknowledged idea that to succeed in the rising digital economy, businesses must align their application delivery approach to the new product development (NPD) principles. Applications take value to customers. It helps to keep up with the fast-paced digital business environment.
Velocity makes the business responsive to market opportunities: It’s the widely adopted notion that time-to-value is the essential revenue driver that will make businesses digitally wealthy. That principle is enabled by the continuous delivery infrastructure which automates—therefore accelerates—the application delivery processes chain.
This unprecedented vision, dominant on the business side, contrasts with the technocentric approach promoted by the vast majority of IT vendors to increase their sales.
Being honest to customers is telling them this: Implementing continuous delivery infrastructure is not implementing DevOps. It will never, on its own, make the business digitally competitive.
I have no doubt that you’re convinced Adam Jacob, Joe McKendrick and even Ernest Mueller, author of “DevOps: It’s Not Chef and Puppet” are definitely right. The question you might be asking now, which may be provocative is, “Okay, that’s good! How do you implement all that?”
Implementing DevOps’ Second Act Foundations into a Digital Business Capability
The first step toward implementing DevOps is to admit that a new IT paradigm is needed, Adam articulates it that way:
Leaders need to realize that implementing DevOps means changing the technology system as well as the cultural system. They must acknowledge that both are intertwined and, to be successful, both systems must evolve to drive velocity.
It’s not different from the two-dimension IT advocated in my recent book, “Rethink Your IT with DevOps: The Complete Guide to Aligning Your IT to DevOps” and in my online contents, “Become Digitally Savvy in Just Hours. Boost Your Digital Revenue Now“:
DevOps implementation is based on four principles that determines successful business transformation:
Concerns have shifted from technology efficiency to business agility: Forget the outdated idea that IT tools on their own can help your business units succeed. What will make them digitally successful is the combination of technology efficiency and organizational flexibility and agility.
See IT as a two-dimension asset: To win legitimacy among business units, offer a two-dimension vision of IT including the value stream and the continuous delivery infrastructure. Value stream is where value is created and the continuous delivery infrastructure is what enables business agility.
The value stream is where the innovation and agility cultures are built: Transform your business organizational structure into an agile value stream through deploying agile practices and methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban and Exteme programming.
The CD infrastructure is where fast time-to-value is enabled: Automate your applications delivery processes into an accelerated applications delivery chain using automation and continuous delivery tools such as Chef Automation, AWS CodePipeline and Apprenda.
Summing It Up
Experienced DevOps Strategists know that DevOps is the means to an end, and not the end itself. DevOps is an enabler to one or a combination of these business competitive advantages: short time-to-value, market responsiveness, innovation culture and many more.
All the noise surrounding the so-called DevOps tools has to do with technology business—making money through selling IT tools—and absolutely not DevOps.
DevOps isn’t a tool, it’s an IT approach stressing business competitiveness: shorter time-to-value, market responsiveness and innovation.