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Building a Business Case for DevOps
Benjamin Wootton

Building a Business Case for DevOps

Today, DevOps is what drives innovation, efficiency and, ultimately, ROI. Traditional IT is no longer fit for purpose and is dying out, along with the companies that practice it.

If you work in IT, you know that. But does your boss? If not, it’s in your interest—and their interest and your entire business’s interest—to teach them.

Keep reading for a guide to building a business case for DevOps (by which I mean helping others see the business value of adopting DevOps tools and processes), as well as a way to map DevOps’s value.

Why Build a DevOps Business Case?

Let’s start by explaining why articulating a business case for DevOps is important in the first place.

To date, the DevOps conversation has been a technical conversation, carried about only among technical people. The DevOps concept has been around since the late 2000s, but it has remained limited mostly to technical circles of IT practitioners since that time.

That makes DevOps different than, say, cloud computing or open source. You don’t have to be a developer or admin to know what these things are, or how they can help bring value to your business. They’re widely known, and their value is widely recognised.

The same cannot be said of DevOps--at least not yet.

The Business Case for DevOps

To help change that, you need to help business decision-makers (who don’t necessarily have strong technical backgrounds) to grasp the value of DevOps for the entire organization. Key talking points in this regard include:

  • DevOps makes better use of staff time
    Practices like continuous delivery and working in parallel help ensure that IT experts are never sitting idle (which would be boring for them and costly for the business because their time is being wasted).
  • DevOps keeps frameworks flexible
    DevOps emphasises the avoidance of vendor lock-in and the maximisation of agility in choosing which tools or frameworks to work with. That translates to cost savings because it means your business is always free to use the technologies that best fit its needs and budget at a given moment, rather than those to which it is wedded because of lock-in.
  • DevOps encourages open, extensible tools
    DevOps engineers take full advantage of community-developed open source tools, like Docker and Puppet. Because those tools are free and can be easily customised, they help save money and keep operations lean.
  • DevOps helps attract the best talent
    Good programmers are in high demand, and they can command top pay no matter where they choose to work. Attracting the best IT talent therefore requires more than just shelling out high salaries. You also need to provide developers with the toolsets they want to work with. Today, that means DevOps-oriented pipelines. Skilled developers will shy away from jobs that force them to use outdated tools, or grapple with needless inefficiencies to do their work.
  • Everyone’s doing DevOps
    DevOps is no longer something that’s popular just among startups or tech companies. Organizations big and small across a range of different industries have adopted DevOps already, or plan to soon. If you want to keep up with the competition, you need to leverage DevOps efficiencies, too.

Tracking the Effectiveness of DevOps

The talking points outlined above are good for helping to convince decision makers to give DevOps a try. But in order to make sure they really understand how much value DevOps brings to the organization, you should be able to quantify DevOps’s benefits by establishing and tracking metrics that allow you to measure how much more agile and cost-efficient DevOps makes the business.

Those metrics include items like:

  • Time between code commits
    This helps you track how much DevOps tools and processes are helping to accelerate development.
  • Time to feature release
    Measure how long it takes you to get a new feature from planning to production in order to understand how DevOps speeds up your development cycle.
  • Number of software defects
    The frequency of defects in your apps reflects the stability and agility of your development processes.
  • Time to resolve defects
    You should also track how long it takes, on average, to fix a bug. You’ll likely find that practices like continuous delivery and “shift-left” testing help to mitigate the time loss and costs associated with fixing bugs.
  • Infrastructure density
    Density means how much of your infrastructure is being used at a given time. Ideally, it will always approach 100 percent, but never exceed it. More than that means you are short on resources. Less means you are spending money on infrastructure you’re not using. DevOps helps you strike the ideal balance by giving you flexible tools and processes that can scale seamlessly as your needs change. (Hint: the cloud, and especially next-generation services like AWS Lambda, stand as a good way to optimise density because they allow you to consume as many resources as you need, while paying only for what you actually use.)
  • Infrastructure costs
    Track total infrastructure costs (for on-premises as well as cloud-based resources) and note how they go down as you replace legacy infrastructure and toolsets with more agile, modern tools, like Docker and the cloud.
  • IT staff retention
    I said DevOps will help you keep your IT talent, and I meant it. Collecting data on turnover rates after you migrate to DevOps will prove the point.

Metrics like these allow you to construct a value stream map that will confirm the business value of your investment in DevOps.

In conclusion, if you think the DevOps conversation ends with the technical crowd, think again. By making a business case for DevOps, and helping to track the business value of DevOps practices, you can make your organization more agile, save money, and tremendously improve the efficiency and productivity of your IT staff.

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