DevOps has been a hot topic in IT in the last couple of years. It appears to hold many of the answers to releasing faster, scaling with confidence and getting the most from Agile.
However, transitioning to a DevOps approach can be a significant and challenging undertaking and many organisations are looking for guidance and support; we were happy to provide some at our event on Tuesday, DevOps in Practice: How to succeed.
We welcomed delegates from across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and asked them on arrival to write down on post-it notes their burning DevOps questions. Several recurring topics arose, including: DevOps roles, responsibilities and team shapes; common pitfalls to avoid; and measures of success.
But the most commonly posed question – and the theme underpinning many of the other questions – was how to manage the cultural change in transitioning to a DevOps approach.
Two of IndigoBlue’s DevOps experts, John Wright (Head of DevOps Practice) and Brett Delle Grazie (DevOps Consultant) were on hand to provide answers to these questions and offer insights based on their rich experience of helping to establish and optimise DevOps at a wide range of organisations.
Following a short, context-setting presentation by John (which you can download below), the delegates split into two discussion groups based on the level of DevOps maturity in their organisation.
The discussion on both tables centred on managing the cultural change during the DevOps transition. In response, John and Brett shared the following insights:
- The scope of DevOps is wide, encompassing an array of functions and disciplines including Development, Operations, Compliance, Architecture, Testing and Security. It is important to engage as early as possible with all functions and disciplines that will be affected by the DevOps approach – understanding their requirements and demonstrating that DevOps processes will satisfy those requirements from the outset. Communication, collaboration and transparency across functions needed to be at the heart of the DevOps culture
- In this regard, an incremental approach is vital – starting simple and taking small steps. An early “Hello world!” deployment will not only provide a demonstration of a functioning DevOps pipeline, it will helpfully expose all of the stakeholders that need to be engaged with and brought on board
- Putting together an exemplar team and project is a good and manageable way of starting to establish new processes, set new standards and demonstrate the impact of the DevOps approach
- For a DevOps transformation to be successful, it needs to be targeted at the core IT infrastructure. Otherwise, there is the risk of ‘Shadow IT’ where DevOps is allowed to work in a bubble entirely separate from the core IT Operations function
- To avoid this, the performance of IT Operations needs to be judged by new KPIs – the extent to which it is supporting the new DevOps approach. Without this, there is no incentive for the busy IT Operations team to get involved – they’ll be too busy working towards their existing KPIs
- For this to happen, it is vital for senior management to be fully supportive of the DevOps transition and actively engaged in driving it forward, including communicating the vision for the transformation and setting new performance measures
- You need to align teams and their goals and seek to remove conflict and lack of understanding of other people’s objective, moving away from “you broke it” blame, to “can you fix it?” collaboration and trust
- In the same vein, through DevOps the aim should be that all the environments are the same and this will start to inform procurement decisions – e.g. if Security want to spend £50K on a tool and the organisation can’t afford to have it running across all environments, then the organisation can’t afford that tool
- You should set a DevOps goal that’s appropriate for your organisation, e.g. releasing once a week or once a month. We’re not all Spotify and Google, it doesn’t have to be hourly/daily etc.
- As much as transitioning to a DevOps approach involves adopting new technologies, it is fundamentally a cultural change affecting people – their ways of working, their behaviours, their motivations. People will have concerns and these should be recognised and addressed. The success of any DevOps transformation depends on managing this well, mapping motivations to rewards and then rewarding appropriate behaviours
Download John’s presentation
Download more information about cultural change