7 Things Traditionally Non-IT Companies Need to Get Right for Their DevOps Implementations

By: Kambiz Khadem Ph.D.

In our last article, “Your Competitive Advantages Pivots on Portability, Elasticity, Scalability and Agility,” we explored some of the factors that can impact an organization’s competitive advantages. Now, we turn our attention to one of the main enablers of the above factors: the successful implementation of “DevOps”. Interestingly enough, Devops is neither a product nor a new technology and, to be frank, there is no universal methodology or approach for its implementation.

DevOps, by definition, is a collection of software development methods that emphasizes communication, collaboration, resource sharing, integration, automation, and measurement of cooperation between software developers and other IT professionals. In reality, DevOps is a journey toward creating a culture that promotes stability, predictability, and performance while delivering continuous enhancements to the core or in supporting IT solutions. When implemented correctly and completely, DevOps essentially allows development teams to become a fully functional and interdependent symbiotic organism, delivering results that make the overall enterprise successful.

1. Define Your DevOps

 The first and foremost step is to clearly define the vision and scope of your DevOps. It is crucial that you create not only a Road Map, but also well-defined strategies that can help your organization navigate that roadmap. Define the desirable business objectives, ambitions, and ultimate vision, making sure they remain fully aligned with delivery capabilities and your organization’s overall objectives.

While you begin with manageable DevOps operations based on your organization’s particular capabilities, needs, and existing culture, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. DevOps is about agility. Pick an initial team of capable and committed individuals, and avoid detailed, pre-made plans as much as possible. As you do, be ready for a widespread and more permanent cultural change throughout the organization. Ultimately, in the long term, it would be difficult to maintain an organization with two different cultures.

2. Create a Culture That Embraces Urgency and Change

 Business success relies heavily on the Release Velocity of a quality product. Make sure the new DevOps team fully understands this concept and embraces it as an operational value. A well-trained team with successful DevOps can be a direct contributor to your organization’s success. In addition to controlling the release velocity based on their understanding of urgent changes and needs, they will have the ability to reflect those changes in the live products and offerings. With this mindset in place, defects, security risks, and other serious inhibitors can be identified, mitigated, and addressed in a manner that remains out of reach for more traditional operations.

3. Define your DevOps Guiding Coalition Early

 The DevOps Guiding Coalition is comprised of the senior IT and operations decision-maker, along with the recipient stake-holders and beneficiaries (usually business). These teams should be supportive, capable, and empowered to communicate. Some of the most significant responsibilities of the coalition include removing obstacles, becoming an enabler agent, and empowering DevOps participants to execute the overall vision.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

The core principle in the success of any DevOps is Communication. The concept of agility – referring to the ability to act and adapt swiftly – depends on effective communication throughout the organization and process. You want to make sure to clearly and frequently communicate the overall vision and scope as well as the roadmap, Strategies and lessons learned as work progresses.

Ensure that all team members, including the Guiding Coalition participants, are committed to the values of continuous delivery. Most importantly, work to replace a culture of risk-aversion and finger-pointing with one that promotes not only transparency and risk-taking, but also an open-minded environment that focuses on learning from mistakes and fixing processes.

5. Create Short-Term Wins

Success is all about delivering the right solution at the right time. The success of the DevOps rests heavily on the projects and how well they are executed. If new to the DevOps, make sure to select a couple of pilot projects that are a good fit architecturally and technologically and which do not depend too heavily on other ongoing projects. Ensure that your teams are fully capable, committed, trained, empowered, and enabled to be successful. Their success, in turn, will be measured on the delivery of timely, continuous, visible, and relevant results.

6. Long-term Plans for DevOps

The best way to expand DevOps beyond a pilot program is to consolidate improvements and scale up. Make use of the lessons learned from your pilot projects since they are the best indicators of success for your organization. To ensure your efforts’ sustainability, identify and partner up with leading organizations or providers that are respected experts in DevOps. Provide internal resources with the proper setting, training, and education. Empower your teams to develop their own flavor of the DevOps as long as their operation remains in harmony with the overall DevOps vision and Roadmap. Avoid micromanaging the team since such a restrictive governance framework would be counter-productive to an Agile work environment.

7. Institutionalize the DevOps Culture

Communication is key here again! Articulate the connections between newly implemented processes and corporate success factors. Clearly illustrate how changes in IT culture will directly benefit and positively impact the success of the organization. Identify which parts of your organization benefit most from adapting to the new DevOps culture and promote the concept of continuous change as part of a business-as-usual mindset. Identify and place relevant metrics and performance indicators to help understand and measure the impact on the organization’s overall success.

Moving forward, the entire organization will need to adapt to the new culture since it would be difficult to maintain an organization with two different operational cultures.


About the Author:

Dr. Khadem has over 23 years of Software Engineering and IT leadership experience with a consistent track record of delivery and driving increased levels of productivity, profits and internal/external customer satisfaction. Recognized as a Business, Technology (Mobile, Cloud Computing and Big Data), IT Strategy Evangelist and Change Agent who implements and manages complex technical solutions that delivers a strong value and ROI. Dr. Khadem holds a Ph.D. in Strategy & Information Technology, an MBA in Business Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.


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