Making the transition to DevOps requires as much a shift in cultural mindset as it does new platforms for building, deploying and managing applications. Between the two, however, it’s often the extent of the cultural challenges needed to be overcome that gets most underestimated.
Michael Elder, a IBM Distinguished Engineer, said one of the most important DevOps philosophies that organizations must embrace is that No Code is Sacred (NCIS). NCIS fosters an experiment-driven culture that encourages self-editing and promotes a “don’t be afraid to fail” mentality. This approach allows teams to form questions, quickly implement means to gather data, try alternatives and incorporate real user behavior and feedback, he said.
Manage the Scrum (Meeting)
Other cultural issues that need to be addressed include leadership and how daily scrum meetings are managed.
An overzealous build champion can wind up adding technologies to the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) platform that don’t get adopted simply because the team as a group did not agree to their inclusion, said Elder.
Daily scrum meetings don’t necessarily need to take a full hour. Non-critical, time-consuming status updates should be eliminated from the agenda. Daily scrum is more about problem-solving and looping the wider team in on critical decisions than talking about updates most team members can already read about for themselves, Elder noted. The goal of the meeting is not necessarily to inform team members of events. They should be expected to know what’s occurred. The real goal of the meeting is to decide what to do next.
Elder said DevOps teams be cognizant of Conway’s Law, which says that organizations that design systems are constrained to produce designs that are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. If the goal is to develop a more agile application environment by employing microservices, Elder said, then the organization should create smaller, more independent teams to construct and manage them. However, that doesn’t mean every monolithic application needs to turned into a set of discrete microservices.
Elder also advised organizations to embrace Design Thinking principles that encourage DevOps teams to focus on what needs to be achieved instead of enabling processes. The focus ultimately needs to be on the experience of the users who are being asked to employ an application, he said.
The Tools Issue
The biggest cultural challenge, however, still may be to tooling. Organizations trying to embrace DevOps clearly need new tools. But acquiring new tools won’t drive meaningful change. Too many organizations buy tools in the hopes that processes will eventually be transformed. The decision to acquire new tools needs to be closely connected with the transformation of processes, said Elder. That said some tools, such as an enterprise instance of Github, are core to encouraging the sharing and reviewing of code within a DevOps process, he added.
Of course, Elder noted the most critical cultural change as far as tooling is concerned is keeping an open mind. Developers and IT operations teams tend to get overly attached to specific programming languages and platforms. A true DevOps culture, above all else, encourages experimentation.