The automation of software development does not obviate the need for a collaboration between IT and the lines of business, or the development of a culture of quality on the part of the development team. Achieving that quality culture requires more than a change in mindset as developers seek to align quality with the speed and automation goals of DevOps.
There are five items required for a quality-driven DevOps environment:
- Understanding the proper role of “minimum viable product”
- Collaboration between IT and lines of business
- Having metrics in place
- Across-the-board buy-in
“Quality culture is characterized by employees who are motivated to consistently strive for the highest level of quality,” said Al Riles, principal consultant at Tunnell Consulting, a firm providing solutions to the complex problems faced by life sciences and biopharma companies. “That’s one key component of it, as well as the ongoing process of continuous improvement.”
Minimum Viable Product and Continuous Quality
Aligning quality with the speed and automation goals of DevOps is critical to success, and part of this is gaining a deeper understanding of the role of “minimum viable product” and understanding when that approach contributes to the development process.
“The concept of ‘minimum viable product’ does not, as its name would suggest, contribute to a substandard product,” said C.R. Venkatesh, CEO of Dot Com Infoway, a CMMI Level 3 IT company. “Quite the contrary, the concept is the basis of continuous and iterative improvement, and encourages the use of user feedback, which often results in insights that might be missed by the in-house team.”
The concept of quality culture and MVP are not mutually exclusive in a DevOps environment, so long as continuous improvement is part of the equation.
Collaboration Between IT and Lines of Business
The collaboration that is a key part of DevOps is also a key part of quality culture. “You have a culture in place where everyone embraces that fabric that includes the right type of behaviors and the right values, including communication, reward and recognition, as well as clarity on roles and responsibilities,” said Riles. “That working fabric gets well-defined, because everyone is functioning around the same key elements that constitute that strong corporate culture.”
“Collaboration has always been important in a DevOps environment,” said Venkatesh. “But we need to define precisely where that collaboration exists. In an internal environment, that collaboration is between IT and lines of business. Increasingly though, IT and development is an outsourced function, and in such cases, that collaboration must be preserved. What this means is that it exists not just within the confines of the outsourcing provider, but also between the provider and the client. The developer must seek out alliances not only with the client’s sourcing manager, but also with other internal stakeholders in the project.”
If You Don’t Measure, it Doesn’t Exist
Quality initiatives require an active role in changing the mindset of all stakeholders, but mindset alone won’t get the job done. Metrics must be in place and tied to those quality initiatives. “Even in the smallest of development projects, defined quality metrics must be set ahead of time, with clearly defined outcomes,” said Venkatesh. “By asking what we hope to accomplish with a development project, clearly defining the goals and adhering to a set of predefined quality standards, developers—whether in-house or third-party—are able to accurately predict what the outcome will be.”
Riles’ process involves a quality management maturity grid, which identifies multiple dashboards. “It allows the organization to become familiar with what a quality organization consists of, and then you can use this maturity grid to measure where the organization is once you embrace this initiative. Then, you can implement the initiative, and come back and re-evaluate yourself to see the progress you’ve made,” said Riles.
Everybody Has a Seat at the Table
Incentivizing all stakeholders, throughout every level of the company, is paramount and, according to Riles, “It has to do with communicating what the vision is, and having a clear quality message that’s coming from leadership. Then, there has to be a shared quality mindset among all staff.” Riles notes that the quality mindset is shared by everyone in terms of understanding the organization’s objectives, policies and procedures and their roles in hoping to achieve them.
This is reinforced by leadership at all levels, who are actively engaged in supporting the development of a quality culture, and they engage and motivate others to do the same. For it to be sustainable, we realize that success is based on the sum of all parts of the organization. They must be continuously monitored and fine-tuned as the organization grows, and this includes communication, reward and recognition, and engagement.
About the Author / Dan Blacharski
Dan Blacharski is a thought leader, advisor, industry observer and PR counsel to several Internet startups, and author of the book “Born in the Cloud Marketing: Transformative Strategies for the Next Generation of Cloud-Based Businesses.” He has been widely published on diverse subjects relating to cloud computing and technology, and he is editor of BoozeHub.com. He lives in South Bend, Indiana with his wife Charoenkwan and their Boston Terrier, Ling Ba.