Digital Bulletin
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Digital Bulletin

Delivering DevOps

The topic for high-end tech debate is: “How can enterprises effectively build a culture of DevOps and why is it so important?”

“A shift in mindset is critical”

Michael Cote, Staff Technologist at VMware Tanzu

Agile and DevOps approaches have brought configuration, monitoring and infrastructure to project and product management. This has led to an all-too common problem — lack of ownership. While small start-ups or isolated teams in large organisations can be full-stream owners, in large enterprises this isn’t practical. Someone needs to “own” and tightly manage the business outcome of the application. To effectively build a culture of DevOps, there needs to be a shift in mindset.

If heads of departments can’t seem to coordinate, there is a headless pipeline. Rather than create yet another silo to solve this problem, there needs to be an owner for the end-to-end process. This starts with putting in the work to discover and document the path to production. The critical mindset shift here is two parts: Firstly, there is an end-to-end path to production, and likely no one has ever discovered and charted it. Secondly, that path to production must be owned and activity managed to perfect how software delivers business value.

Moreover, as organisations are scaling new methods, they are held up by governance and security. These two functions have yet to fully “shift left”. What do we mean by “shift left”? Successful organisations are spending the time to work with auditors and security staff earlier in the process, hence, “shift left”. While these relationships have been oppositional in the past, working together earlier in the process removes much of that opposition and serves both the needs of the auditors and the product team.

The mindset shift here may seem simple in principle but can be hard to shift in practicality. It takes leadership to shift their collective minds to a new way of thinking about the purpose of software in their organisation. Software innovation can no longer be thought of in terms of one-off projects, as it has in the past. This is a closed approach, not aligned with the need to adapt to new market dynamics. Rather, a product mindset focuses on continually learning what the product is and continually delivering new features as determined by evolving customer and business needs.

Thinking about software as a “product” is what’s needed in this kind of environment. Leadership must own and model a new product mindset of agility and dynamism. No more complaining about ‘the other guys’, no more silos and sticking to the rigid path previously trod. This enables the integration of swift innovation and stronger resilience within the culture of an organisation, no matter the headwinds.

“Begin with culture and gradual change”

Erica Langhi, Senior Solutions Architect, Red Hat

DevOps — the practice of automating the processes between software development and operations teams — is an important shift in both an IT team’s daily practice and culture and something that can be achieved over time by taking a step-by-step approach.

Implementing DevOps, however, is as much a cultural effort as it is a logistical change. Embracing a DevOps culture can be seen as fundamental to success as the paradigm is built on open communication and harmonisation between teams, bringing agility and time-efficiency to your process. Automating processes in this way requires aligning people and communication structures to enable agile development through working continuously and in concert. Transparency and collaboration are key and the benefits are clear.

Iterative by nature, DevOps ensures IT teams can quickly adapt to new business needs or recent developments in hardware or software as DevOps teams can work through a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, creating a virtuous cycle of efficiency and automation. Deployment time can be improved and the number of errors can be cut down as DevOps teams practice continuous testing and improvement — an increasingly key process in today’s business environment.

Building a DevOps culture, though not requiring a cloud-native backdrop, lends itself to cloud-native architectures. Driving the adoption of cloud technologies such as microservices and containers helps to create a common language between development and operations teams — an imperative for complex IT environments and architectures.

Bringing scale to traditional monolithic applications and breaking down silos also allows for agile communication and working practice, as teams can work concurrently on all aspects of the development and improvement process and can produce results continuously, rather than waiting for one large release. Moreover, through this scaled structure allowing DevOps team to work harmoniously across your processes, IT teams are much better prepared to face sudden changes in technology or unexpected problems, bolstering your resilience to disruption and increasing efficiency.

This is not to say that the transition to DevOps isn’t a complex and expensive one, as it will likely require both new training and technology. However, the results of the DevOps approach are pivotal in securing buy-in as they represent a long-term transition to a more time-efficient, agile and communicative way of doing things.

The best way to approach this shift is in incremental steps, building in new technologies and techniques gradually in order to initiate the shift and to tweak mindsets to a more open manner of working than the traditional approach between developer and operations teams. Moving to a DevOps culture ultimately will see IT teams not only improving service delivery for end users, but also noticing that it has made their own lives significantly easier.

“Don’t view DevOps through a tech lens”

Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

The future of DevOps lies in people, process, and culture. Yet too many organisations still associate DevOps with being a technology solution. Most programmes’ chances of success are hindered because they focus solely on the technology, rather than on people.

However, employees are the ones adopting a DevOps approach, and consequently need to embrace it culturally. For successful enterprise adoption, it is vital for departments to work cohesively. Operations teams, developers and testers must collaborate during the development and delivery processes. DevOps was initially introduced for the purpose of removing bottlenecks and reducing siloes, bringing people together. It also increases accountability and moves teams towards a more product-centric approach with the aim of delivering value understood by all.

Cultural practices and norms that are characteristics of high-trust organisations, like cross-functional collaboration, transparent information flow and shared responsibilities, are the same as those at the heart of DevOps. An organisational culture that nurtures effective software development programmes and IT operations is one that encourages new ideas, shares successes, and enables teams to learn from failures. This is fundamentally why DevOps practices correlate so strongly with high organisational performance; it is only achievable when you show people the value of working differently through a more orchestrated approach towards a common goal.

Effectively making the shift towards a DevOps culture must also come from the top down. All organisations need to prioritise the journeys or products that underpin what they do as a business, and ensure alignment throughout teams with shared goals and a focus on value. For the ethos to trickle down to all separate teams and individuals, senior leaders must get behind a collaborative culture. It is equally as important to hire employees who embody such values and want to engage with and foster an environment of collaboration.

Ultimately, DevOps is still a work in progress. If organisations are serious about focusing on people, rather than the actual technology, they must address the systems of work that bring employees together across the DevOps cycle. Fostering a company culture that breeds collaboration around common goals, embraces lean methodologies to optimise end-to-end results, and delivers cross-functional communication, is crucial to this. And by doing so, companies can strike the perfect balance needed to deliver an effective DevOps program that is fit for purpose.

“Collaborate and break down silos”

Cisco AppDynamics Executive CTO EMEAR, James Harvey

The pace and scale of digital transformation since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been phenomenal. Our research found that technologists have been delivering digital transformation three times faster than prior to the pandemic, whilst simultaneously grappling with the knowledge that any drop in IT performance could be incredibly costly, impacting end user experience at a time when customers and employees have been relying on digital services more than ever before.

Now, after more than 18 months of rapid digital transformation in response to the pandemic, technologists are encountering crippling IT complexity, left trying to manage an increasingly sprawling IT estate across a patchwork of distributed legacy and cloud technologies. IT and business leaders are now turning to DevOps to solve this.

DevOps enables organisations to develop better, more consumer-focused applications with a higher degree of consistency. But, of course, there is no magic way to streamline digital transformation. It all comes down to people and culture — this is also where most organisations fail. Organisations must create a strong company culture that focuses on breaking down silos. For this, they must also ensure involvement from the C-suite to delegate decisions and stay transparent across both IT and business leaders.

To break down silos between departments and establish a DevOps culture, businesses must shift to collaborative ways of working across the entire business. For this to work, technologists require a single view on performance up and down the IT stack — from customer-facing applications to core infrastructure — and they need a business lens on IT performance to align with the wider business on priorities and to pinpoint the most critical issues so that they can take action before they impact customers.

Full-stack observability with business context gives technologists the ability to connect IT performance to business outcomes. With this, technologists can deliver faultless digital experiences and game-changing innovation needed to succeed and win customer loyalty. Only this alignment between technology and business performance can enable technologists to deliver the very best digital experiences and thrive within a DevOps culture, to drive innovation in these uncertain times.

“DevOps essential for innovation”

Margaret Lee, SVP and GM of Digital Service and Operations Management, BMC Software

Essentially, DevOps is all about driving change and innovation through repeatable iterations of design, development, testing, building, deploying, and analysing. For enterprises that have applications and services spanning multiple generations of mission critical technologies, they will know that practicing DevOps in a complex environment with a multitude of dependencies can lead to uncertain, unpredictable, and in some cases, unintended results.

To drive a culture of significant growth and innovation, incorporating DevOps across the enterprise is essential. It is key in enabling large organisations to rapidly deploy new applications, systems, and processes, with greater efficiency than ever before. Successful DevOps transformations break down silos by using standard tools and sharing data. When DevOps teams share technology with security, operations, and service management teams or work toward one gold data standard, they can better meet end-user needs and accelerate timelines.

There is a strong correlation between the speed and agility of software development and overall organisational success. Often, DevOps teams move in fast, and implement lean, direct toolchains, which enable a resilient path from change initiation to deployment. Enterprise DevOps radically enhances current processes and practices, positioning enterprises for growth and continuity. Businesses operating effectively are positioned to deliver a competitive differentiation through quickly responding to customers’ changing needs, providing higher quality digital products and services, incorporating continuous delivery of changes and fixes and the enablement of software DevOps by streamlining external gating processes.

One of the keys to DevOps success is technology optimised by artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning. A robust continuous integration and deployment pipeline ensures productive work over cross-technology environments, components, and locations, which enables validation and maintains agility. DevOps principles are centered on improving the communication and coordination between development and operations. By integrating incident and change management with leading agile development solutions along with the cultural shifts and streamlined work methods across all teams, boosts service quality, reduces downtime, resolves issues more quickly, and enables innovation.

The pressure to innovate rapidly should not override the necessity of stability. A DevOps culture and mindset promote both, by effectively coordinating people, products, and processes. When operating effectively, and with careful management of the competing needs of both operations and development teams, DevOps enables organisations to deliver competitive differentiation as an Autonomous Digital Enterprise which is made up of intelligent, interconnected, technology-enabled, value-creating systems that minimises manual effort to capitalise on human creativity, skills, and intellect across the enterprise. In turn, this equips the organisation with the agility and culture to respond quickly to customers’ developing needs.

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The fusion of the digital and the physical, the irrepressible rise of new technologies. These are seismic factors currently redefining our world, earning their own epochal moniker: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Digital Bulletin exists to tell the story.

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