The working hypothesis for a Gartner report on how to avoid failure with your DevOps effort is that, unless the trajectory changes, “Through 2023, 90 [percent] of DevOps initiatives will fail to fully meet expectations.” The reason? You could boil it down to management not fully understanding DevOps tenets and nuances—things such as targeting business value, measuring success, meeting cultural/organizational challenges, fostering collaboration, understanding the inherently iterative process and managing for realistic expectations.
DevOps is about people from multiple disciplines coming together to solve problems streamline workflows, develop new processes, break down silos to develop business value. “A lot of people fixate on the tools,” said George Spafford, senior director analyst, Gartner and co-author of the report. “They identify best-of-breed, lay out their toolchain and say, ‘Ta-da!'”
The tools are important, but they are not the difficult part of DevOps. They are not a key obstacle. To succeed with DevOps, you often have to do something much more difficult: Change mindsets. Gartner identified these five top reasons for the failure of DevOps initiatives:
1. Doing DevOps for DevOps’ Sake
It’s important for DevOps initiatives to be grounded in generating business value. If the main goal is to achieve DevOps, you won’t be able to demonstrate sufficient value to sustain support. Failure to identify a business goal and focus the effort on attaining that goal can shut down the DevOps initiative in only a few months. Identify business value by working closely with business stakeholders on a project-by-project basis to identify opportunities or obstacles and define the business value that will be developed. Avoid the temptation to rush DevOps implementation by taking too large a leap. Trust the DevOps process.
2. Don’t Ignore the Culture
DevOps can be intimidating in the early stages. Done right, it usually involves organizational change. People need to understand from leadership that this is not optional. They also need to understand what DevOps is and ultimately how it will affect them. Otherwise, what they imagine will tend to be much worse. It’s also of chief importance to communicate the business goals, both for instituting DevOps and the business value that you hope to generate. Senior leaders must recognize that DevOps teams represent “a fundamental shift away from traditional command-and-control hierarchical management models,” according to the report. “To improve agility, decision-making must move to where the information is.” Relaying information up and down the chain of command to make a decision isn’t feasible with DevOps. The teams need to be empowered to make decisions themselves. For that to work, key DevOps team members need to be fully aware of senior management’s strategic priorities.
DevOps thrives in an open, honest environment where a frank exchange of perspectives is discussed, analyzed constructively by the group leading to decision-making. Many DevOps initiatives fail because they give short shrift to selecting people with the right temperament to help manage this process. Gartner suggests choosing people who you would describe as being team players, trustworthy, motivated, accountable, smart, experienced and effective communicators. Other words that come to mind include responsible, high emotional IQ, fair-minded, open-minded, aboveboard, not prone to casting blame, respectful and collaborative. In the end, for DevOps to work, you need to foster the type of environment people from multiple disciplines, with multiple agendas, can come together in a small team and get things done.
3. What We Have Here is a Failure to Collaborate
DevOps should not be limited to just IT and Ops. For it to succeed in generating business value, DevOps teams must work with other groups and stakeholders. This work “requires a systemic perspective and involvement, not uncoordinated silos,” according to the report. That said, while there is no magic number of DevOps team members, some have recommended five to 10 people. When you get into the range of 20 people, you may find that you DevOps effort is less effective. (Aside: It is possible to have more than one DevOps team.)
In considering collaboration, don’t forget senior management. Look to gain the support of an executive who can help champion the effort. Finally, you know that DevOps is working when DevOps team members are collaboratively compromising deferring to each other’s needs. The trick is to solve multiple problems with every decision.
4. DevOps is Iterative
Too many companies get caught up in the notion that they can launch DevOps in a single bound. According to the report, historically, traditional transformation approaches have a high failure rate. “DevOps involves too many variables for this type of approach to be successful in a large IT organization,” Gartner noted. “An incremental, iterative approach lets organizations focus on continual improvements and avoid the risks” of what is often termed the “big bang” approach. DevOps by its very nature is focused on continuous improvement with an iterative process, rolling out smaller improvements more quickly. Any thought of launching it all in one fell swoop misses the point and shows a distinct lack of understanding about the principles of DevOps.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
DevOps and DevSecOps are enjoying the huge level of interest and popularity among enterprises. When that happens, the hype tends to overinflate expectations about the outcomes. Gartner advises that you manage expectations by agreeing on objectives and success metrics. Establish your starting point with whatever metric you adopt, then pursue the goal iteratively. According to the report, “DevOps is not a one-time effort; rather, it’s about trying over and over again.”