Do you have a business
case for DevOps?
Introducing DevOps carries a degree of uncertainty
writes George Spafford at Gartner.
George Spafford, Research Director at Gartner.
ith digitalisation, there is
a critical need to support
businesses that must operate
at higher speeds and with greater
agility. This has resulted in DevOps
growing quickly and becoming key to
many organisations in their pursuit of
competitive advantage. Although DevOps
delivers compelling business advantages,
many organisations struggle to benefit
from DevOps initiatives due to uncertainty
about how to approach them.
DevOps challenges conventional
IT thinking with its lack of a standard
definition and approach, its constant
evolution, and its management of risk.
This imprecise target state has caused
many IT organisations to hesitate in
implementing a DevOps strategy.
Gartner defines DevOps as a business-
driven approach to deliver solutions
using agile methods, collaboration and
automation. However, it is important to
define the initiative in terms that your
organisation will understand.
Picking a label for your initiative to
provide a banner for people to identify with
and support will help to get them on board.
The definition should be short, focused and
supportive of the business justification.
A DevOps initiative must focus
on business requirements and not on
doing DevOps for the sake of DevOps,
wherein the methods and tools become
more important than what customers
need. Organisations must avoid the
all-too-common mistake of launching
a DevOps initiative before establishing
that a business reason exists to do so.
In addition, people are more willing to
change when they understand the value to
the organisation and to them directly.
Do not deploy DevOps in a single step.
DevOps must be deployed iteratively, with
each increment satisfying all three of the
Politically friendly environment:
This means that people are willing to work
with the first-mover application and give
the initiative a fair and honest try.
Acceptable value: The first mover
must deliver enough value to earn
credibility and approval to continue.
Acceptable risk: Because of the
ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding
DevOps, many people view it as risky and
are afraid to begin. Organisations should
identify an opportunity that involves
an acceptable level of risk, because
everyone – IT, operations, development,
information security, regulatory
compliance and audit – must learn.
The core use case of DevOps is in
agile development and situations with
considerable uncertainty such as machine
learning and Internet of Things, but
because the DevOps philosophy can
be applied broadly, there will be other
opportunities to introduce concepts.
The initial impact, however, will usually
be better with systems of innovation
because the existing capabilities likely
cannot support these initiatives such as big
data, machine learning, IoT and so forth.
People are the main ingredient in
a successful DevOps initiative. When
selecting members of the initial team,
emphasize behavior over skills. Teaching
technical skills is easier than attempting to
change wrong behaviors that can derail the
DevOps effort. Look for a good team player
who is smart, motivated, understands
risk and is a committed lifelong learner,
capable of working in new ways.
In a DevOps initiative, objectives
must be at the team level and aligned to
the business objective given to the team.
DevOps team members must realise that
they all have the same objective, and
metrics and incentives must encourage
teamwork toward business goals as
opposed to metrics that reinforce risk
aversion and individual problem solving.
A DevOps implementation includes
an integrated toolchain that improves
the flow of work and, ultimately,
value. Linking all of the automation
touchpoints and information flows speeds
the movement of releases through the
toolchain while managing risk, collecting
data, while reducing human error, rework
and outages. This will allow the tools used
at each stage to be aligned and will provide
a view on where automation, integration
and tool hand-offs need to be achieved
within and between stages.
Do not derail a valid DevOps initiative
by trying to scale before you are ready.
Instead, bring together your team, start
moving in the direction that seems to make
the most sense and address the constraints
encountered. Rapid learning and evolution
must happen in terms of the people, the
technologies and the processes.
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