IT practitioners must bridge the gap of understanding about DevOps with their managers and executives if they really want continuous delivery to take root in their organizations. Next week at Camp DevOps @ Gluecon, Andi Mann, vice president in the office of the CTO for CA Technologies, will propose ways to do that in his talk, Building Top-Down Support for DevOps.
“You can only push so far from below until you need to start getting support from above,” Mann says, explaining that the practitioner audience that tends to dominate events like Gluecon are running into a ceiling with DevOps adoption because the organization-wide changes necessary require top-level support from managers and executives to carry them out. He believes passionate advocates of DevOps need to do a better job garnering that top-level support.
From practitioners and even middle managers, that will require some mind shifts and improved ways of approaching people further up the food chain. He gave DevOps.com a quick preview of some of the suggestions for practitioners he’ll lay out in the talk he’s developed to help them start improving their DevOps executive pitches.
Understand management’s goals
Mann: “To start with, they need to understand their manager’s goals and even their manager’s manager’s goals. Employees often don’t think about that, they have tunnel vision and only consider their own goals or sometimes their team’s goals. Practitioners often fall into the trap of looking at something and saying ‘That’s obviously good for the business’ without really knowing if that’s the case or not.”
Think about politics
“If you’re looking to go into this major cultural change which DevOps must affect, then it needs to be in line with the organization’s goals. When you think about accelerating delivery of new capabilities, the question might be whether the rest of the organization is ready for that. So if you’re creating a new feature in a front office application, but you’ve got to train 15,000 front office staff in that application, is that something you want to be doing. You might think it’s a great thing, but your manager may say, ‘Hang on, this is just causing work for other people.’ You’ve got to understand where the boundaries are politically within an organization and figure out how to break those down.”
Bring fact-based results projections to the table
“How will you make your boss a hero? That’s glib, but you need to think of it in those terms, particularly when it comes to ROI and the business case for DevOps. Start by proving other people’s successes first to your managers and then show how your success will be achieved second. There’s survey data out there, there’s gartner data, and there’s data from vendors on what the outcome of DevOps are. It’s not enough to say to a manager, ‘I’ve got this idea, it’s a philosophy and amovement and a cultural change and it’s going to make our company better.’ Not many managers are going to spend a lot of time listening to that proposal. You need to come in with the ROI and how DevOps addresses their business challenges.”
Understand and communicate costs
Mann: “Not enough practitioners actually put together business cases for their managers to take to their executives to support the change in culture—and a big part of that is budget. Think about what training you need, whether there’s going to be additional hires to fill out skill sets. There’s cost of software—the DevOps tool chain is rapidly maturing and not all of it is free. Even the open source stuff costs money. If you want to get the most out of it you’re going to be looking at support contracts, services and training. So there’s cost involved and that is an important part of making that business case.”
As Mann will explain in his talk, these considerations need to be the building blocks of a complete and polished proposal. Bringing executives that “finished work” will more likely sway them than a few stray conversations made up of hints and gut feelings about DevOps benefits.
“Go to your boss with a finished idea. Explain ‘here’s what we need to do, this is the spend, this is the result we’re going to get in terms of dollar returns and savings, speed to market and so on,'” he says. “And then explain, ‘Here’s a project plan for how we’re going to do it,’ preferably with a paced, layered approach proposed rather than a big bang.”