Welcome to the new DevOps.com Q&A series on Enterprise DevOps. In the first post in this series, I answered five key concerns for adopting a DevOps approach in a large enterprise. Now, I want to address a more specific question from an admin at a large enterprise about the silos and barriers between dev and ops …
Q. How do you work with customers to remove the imaginary wall between dev and ops to create that DevOps environment?
This is perhaps the core of a DevOps transformation – dev and ops teams working closely together toward common goals, rather than in isolated silos. I have seen several methods have substantive impacts on these entrenched silos, so I will take you through some of the more effective approaches.
In many organizations, dev and ops barely know each other – a huge barrier to the empathy at the centre of devops. Breaking this wall down may be as simple as getting both departments together for some social activities. Some successful approaches I have seen include:
- Sponsor a one-off or regular shared non-work team activity, like paintball, a pool tournament, team picnic, LAN game, or cooking classes. Bring both teams together in a non-workplace environment to work together. Remember to mix up the teams – you do not want to reinforce any us vs them mentality;
- Schedule sessions for team members to present to each other in short sessions (think lightning talks like Ignite or TedX) beyond technology to any areas of interest – like ‘My Sports Team,’ ‘Steampunk in the 21st Century,’ ‘Restoring Train Carriages,’ or ‘Strategies for TF2 Domination.’ Share common interests to create empathy for each other as people, not just functionaries;
- Initiate informal knowledge sharing, with regular ‘lunch-and-learn’ or ‘brown bag’ sessions, where team members can explain what their role is, why they do it, how they do it. Offer a ‘Day in the Life…’ presentation, a Q&A session, or a whiteboard over pizza and sodas and your technical staff will come out like vultures, ravenous for … knowledge!
Telecommuting has many benefits, but standup meetings are hard to achieve across five time zones, ten locations and six languages. People communicate better in person, so physically co-locate teams as we at CA and others have done, to enable them to connect and talk in person, not just via e-mail or IM.
In multi-national enterprises central developers often push code to global operations, reinforcing the silo mentality. Align local devs and ops with local business users instead to facilitate customer-centric agile development, and enable smaller, closer, more agile teams with more immediate shared goals.
Consider seconding team members into the other team e.g. for one day a week, one week a month, or one month in six. When ops learn firsthand the basics of their dev counterparts, and vice versa, they will better internalize how to work together, and the impact of each role on the overall process.
Some enterprises have combined dev and ops into one team. While often seen as an ‘anti-pattern,’ for some organizations this is working well. Others have adopted a flexible org structure with hierarchical management for administration (reviews, goals, training, etc.), but loose teaming for functional duties.
Beyond cultural and attitudinal shift, technology can also help. A shared toolchain for the end-to-end service delivery lifecycle can bring teams together too. Common tools for planning, testing, release, monitoring, or triage will help break down barriers with a common terminology and shared experience.
While there are no silver bullets, these are some ways I have seen enterprises break down these silos. But perhaps you have seen or been a part of other approaches? If so, other readers and I would love to know more, so please take the time to leave a note in the comments below, or drop me a line directly.
And remember, if you have questions about Enterprise DevOps, let me know and I will try to answer them for you. If I can’t answer them myself, I will find someone who can! Please leave your questions in the comments below; hit me up on Twitter at @AndiMann; or send me an e-mail to me at email@example.com.