There are many available resources dedicated to delivering better business value faster. Based on this advice, many organizations and teams are adopting common software delivery practices — even outside the usual use case of providing software (take, for example, SpaceX teams using agile, or leadership teams that use scrum practices and have daily stand-up calls). This progression into faster, better, cheaper and easier – no matter what you’re delivering – is what makes incorporating DevOps into business practices critical to delivering unmatched value for end users.
Then and Now
A great perspective to consider when approaching the subject of DevOps is how technology has changed just about everything – how we build, connect, share and educate. Up until the 2000s, for example, the standard turnaround time for taking and sharing pictures was one to three weeks, if not longer. This process used to involve film cameras, darkrooms to process the photographs, photo finishing labs and hard copy, physical prints. Today, our mobile devices allow us to snap hundreds of professional-quality images and share them immediately online.
These earth-shattering changes don’t apply to photography alone, but to many other industries including financial services, banking and IT. Consistently, technology is finding new ways to disrupt industries, priming them to be more efficient to fit into our fast-moving lifestyles.
The DevOps Life Cycle
Now, let’s look at software delivery. In the past, the process of traditional software delivery was linear and sequential; waterfall methodologies offered little flexibility and did not succumb to the nature of change and demand for technology services we see today. What we’ve experienced with software delivery now uses DevOps to leverage new insights through people, processes and technology, giving organizations the ability to deliver continuous business value. Yes, that means businesses are adding value to our lives all the time, whether you see it or not. For technology organizations, this process for delivering business value is modeled through what we call the DevOps life cycle — understood through the graphic below.
Getting to a DevOps Culture
Often, an organization’s challenges with DevOps do not lie in the technology or processes themselves, but in the people part of the equation – how we work together to deliver value via cross-functional teams. To understand what building a DevOps culture means, we need to look at what culture encompasses and how our people, process and technology work together to enable a successful DevOps life cycle.
This layered graphic features all the various components related to culture. Each layer encompasses the next.
Getting to a DevOps culture involves articulating change both from the bottom up and top down in our organizations and is, therefore, no easy feat. Before we can introduce or discuss tooling, we need to understand how our practices and principles help us achieve our outcomes. Each inner layer requires the outer layer to be successful before we can truly get to defining and strengthening a DevOps culture.
Here are my tips for getting to a DevOps culture:
· Learn from and develop skills from mistakes
· Focus on the important priorities
· Capture collaboration
· Perfect your tooling
The DevOps Principles
DevOps is the collection and collaboration of people, processes and technology to deliver software value continuously. Here are some core DevOps principles you can use to guide you on your DevOps journey.
Create With the End in Mind
High-performing teams work best when leaders and individuals understand their role in the team. Therefore, creating with the end in mind involves reassessing and often asking big picture questions, like “Who is this delivery for?” and “Why are we doing it this way?” Keep the vision in mind and make adjustments along the way.
Even the most famous photographs in history involved many adjustments and numerous attempts to get it right. Creating with the end in mind means knowing we may not have everything right the first time around. That’s okay! Similarly, life isn’t without its own distractions, conflicts and changes. Keeping the target outcomes in mind helps us align to initiatives and actions, and to question when they don’t align.
Many products and deliveries involve multiple people. For example, some of the best Marvel cinematic universe (MCU) movies were made thanks to the help of multiple production teams and partner companies coming together to build the powerhouse we know today. Not to mention, in my opinion, some of the best superhero movies of our time. We succeed with software delivery in the same way: by having fully responsible cross-functional delivery teams.
The best engineering teams I’ve been on are made up of independent and autonomous individuals who know how they can contribute to the work in progress. They’re also willing and unafraid to collaborate with others to get this work done.
Commitment to the Journey
“I am not here to be right. I am here to get it right.” – Brené Brown, from the book Dare to Lead.
Even with cross-functional delivery teams and creating with the end in mind, our teams still may not get everything right the first time around. Committing to DevOps is about accepting any failures that come during the journey. Committing to the journey doesn’t mean you can’t define what it involves, even if it’s out of the ordinary. Experimentation is also a part of how we, as developers, adapt to change and adopt novel approaches to delivering faster, cheaper and better software.
The DevOps Principles as Guides
Use these principles as the foundation for how to work together, but also use the right tools, and define and improve processes along the way. In photography, there are three components that serve as building blocks to the final images we capture: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. In DevOps, it’s our people, processes and technologies. Achieving high performance with DevOps involves all of these components working together and adjusting to our environment, situation or team.
The key to getting to the results you desire? Not getting blindsided by any single component of getting to that result.
The DevOps Practices and Tools
I like to consider this section the call to action; the one says to our teams and individuals, “Gear up!” No reasonable photographer would leave for a photoshoot without their camera and camera gear, right? Similarly, DevOps practitioners and teams need the right tools to get the desired results.
Source Code Management
Source code management is about allowing teams to collaborate, have version control, correct and revert software code. This is fundamental for many teams to increase not only visibility and collaboration, but also start automation workflows.
If you are an individual just starting out with writing code, I recommend learning the basics of Git, such as how to add, commit, push, merge, branch and clone code. If you’re a team, I recommend discussing the practices and standards you want to use for collaborating. Always fit your Git structure and workflow to your codebase and team dynamics.
What continuous integration (CI) does is take code away from local machines to package it into a deployable artifact in a CI server. What this is designed to do is automate the integration of newly committed code changes. This process is often triggered by code changes pushed into your Git repository. Using checks and other tools, teams can version and release artifacts that have already been vetted for quality and security.
Continuous delivery, on the other hand, takes artifact code to production environments. CD aims to deliver code changes of all kinds to users in a fast, repeatable and safe manner. CI/CD consists of both CI and CD pipelines working together to deliver code to users.
Infrastructure-as-code allows users to define hardware through code. We can improve how we provision, configure and maintain hardware systems. Infrastructure provisioning tools like HashiCorp’s Terraform and AWS Cloud Formation, configuration automation tools like Ansible, Puppet and Chef and package managers like Helm allow teams to accomplish much more when software scales and demand increases.
Secrets and Identity Management
Security is everyone’s responsibility. Secrets management and identity management tools make accomplishing DevSecOps easier by securing and managing sensitive information. Teams should consider how they are handling secrets and users within their architecture. HashiCorp Vault, KeyCloak, KMS and other similar tools can help you achieve your goals around security.
There are many other practices and tools DevOps teams and organizations can use to achieve their desired outcomes. What works for one team may not work for another — hence the need to innovate and experiment in a controlled and well-led manner. Other practices that can increase your team’s ability to deliver value include value stream mapping, progressive delivery, GitOps and chaos engineering.
People, processes, and technology belong together in a DevOps culture. While practice makes perfect, what’s more important than perfection is gathering the right answers along the way. Everything doesn’t need to be right the first time around. Just remember that no leader, individual or team in DevOps is alone. We started by defining what it means to build a DevOps culture, change mindsets and set principles and practices, so now I ask you: What does DevOps mean to you?