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Technology is not a Magic Wand for DevOps

Theresa StoneBy Theresa Stone

All too often I walk into companies that want to implement DevOps as part of their software defined data center (SDDC) journey and hear conversations filled with frustration like:

We have implemented 8 new tools and our developers seem to be mostly happy with them; but we continue to have issues delivering anything on time!  Our operations staff are frustrated and internal customers won’t allow their applications in our virtualized environment.

OR

 We bought all these new tools and implemented them, I even paid for my people to have formal training on them, but I don’t feel like we’re any better off than we were before!

Many organizations have bought into the falsehood that DevOps is just a technology play.   That could not be further from the truth, so don’t fall for that trap.   Successful DevOps organizations must focus on a lot more than just implementing technology to achieve success.

IT leaders should invest in cultural changes, people, skills gaps and collaboration issues above all other issues to achieve DevOps success. Organizations embarking on a DevOps initiative need to take a step back and evaluate if you are on track for success by approaching DevOps holistically.   These initiatives require a transformation strategy built around clearly defined goals and the development of a well-defined roadmap that incorporates people, process, technology and culture.

Core Pillars of DevOps Transformation

Here are some activities that are often incorporated in a transformation roadmap for DevOps broken down across the core pillars required for success – note one is not like the others:

DevOps PillarsPEOPLE Transformation

  • Governance frameworks are put in place to support and enable value realization from DevOps
  • Organization and operating models are modified to facilitate holistic changes to culture
  • People are invested in with necessary training and skills enhancements

PROCESS Transformation

  • Operations and development engineers participate together in the entire service life-cycle from design through to production support
  • An incident command system is in place where the development team is involved in incident resolution
  • Processes are re-engineered to be more efficient, lean and repeatable

TECHNOLOGY Transformation

  • DevOps technology improvements place reliance on build, test and release automation along with orchestration across technologies and integrated tool chains using continuous delivery capabilities
  • Infrastructure is treated as code
  • The DevOps team delivers small chunks of value to the customer more often
  • Recovery oriented computing – fail forward

CULTURE Transformation

  • High trust, team culture demonstrating effective, seamless cross-functional collaboration, open communications, performance orientation and learning culture (generative organization)
  • Demonstrated Servant Leadership – enable and serve from the top down
  • Established collective ownership
  • Creativity is encouraged

(All of these culture items must be focused on and incorporated into the attributes and activities above.)

Why is Technology the Pillar Most Organizations Focus on First?

Even though new technology is important and usually required, most organizations focus only on tools and do not achieve desired outcomes.   Why does this happen over and over again?   I believe it is due to a couple of factors:

  1. IT leaders gravitate toward what comes easiest and what seems most important to them – i.e. implementing new technology
  2. Leaders in general have a hard time comprehending the importance of people, process and cultural changes and what that actually looks like; therefore, investments in seeking outside assistance from experts are not made where they may be needed the most

In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing landscape, filled with disruptive technology, successful companies must be strategic and operate efficiently to remain on top.  DevOps is not easy and it does not happen overnight; however, it can produce the desired results if you take a holistic approach.  There are many success stories of those that embraced the changes and transformation needed across people, process, technology and culture to be the new or rising leaders in their industry.    Are you next?

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Theresa Stone is a Transformation Process Architect with VMware and is located in Virginia.