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DevOps Is Not One-Size-Fits-All
Brett Luckabaugh

DevOps Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

So your organization finally decided to adopt DevOps methodologies and transform your way of working? That’s great, but I’m sure you’re filled to the brim with questions of how to actually make these people, process and technology changes work, right?

Let’s take a step back to level set the expectations for everyone. The term “DevOps” gets thrown around quite a bit these days, and while the formal definition is that it combines software development with IT operations, it can also be somewhat limiting in terms of describing actual IT transformations.

Realistically, DevOps is the adoption of a new paradigm—a total business transformation. One that also encompasses the finance, security, governance, and leadership departments in your organization.

Take a Longer Time-frame

Unfortunately, this means that this kind of transformation is not a quick fix of shifting a few resources around and introducing a few new tools. It is critical to visualize what your company looks like in the next three to five years or so, which is much more important than what it looks like in three to five months. This is a journey that requires significant effort around creating a ubiquitous vision for your transformation in order to unlock true business value: e.g. speeding up your customer feedback loop, delivering change to your customers faster, and more reliably outperforming your competition.

To start your DevOps transformation keep the three/five year number in the front of your mind. That’s the time frame you should allot to cement your strategy and begin seeing objective improvements within your IT organization. We highly recommend starting with a small, experimental lighthouse project (more details on why and how Contino relies on lighthouse projects here) to provide proof of the effectiveness of DevOps ways of working. With a successful lighthouse project under your belt you can gather valuable learnings before you dive straight into the deep end of the pool without armbands.

Murphy’s Law of Migration: Expect Problems!

One of the key tenets of DevOps is based in Kaizen: act, iterate and improve—repeat! You can perform your migration at scale, for instance, by migrating one targeted application first, instead of all 300 of your applications at once. This avoids the potentially dire consequences should something not pan out as expected. Murphy’s Law tells us we should expect problems to occur, and see this as a necessary and valuable learning opportunity to make subsequent migrations smoother. 

The industry is filled with expert consultants that can help you navigate this journey, and it really depends on your organization’s structure and needs as to whether you should tactically make use of them, as there really is no one-size-fits-all DevOps solution.

How to Change

While eventually you will want to have your core IT organization in-house, changing ingrained ways of working is incredibly daunting and it’s natural for people, particularly highly-skilled executives and engineers, to resist these changes if they are not scoped, presented, and implemented properly. Outside help can assist you in overcoming those barriers as Contino has done time and time again in enormous enterprises like Allianz and National Australia Bank (where we helped them to migrate 30 apps in 50 days!).

However, know that there are many methods to help team members evolve both their thinking and working styles. After you identify and acknowledge the various siloes in your organization (e.g. finance, compliance, operations, infrastructure, governance, etc.), then facilitate a series of workout sessions to jointly define a new operating model and create a new Center of Excellence (a cross-organisational group of cloud practitioners sharing knowledge and best practice). This way you are more likely you will see adoption and transformational success.

A great example of a winning DevOps outlook comes from a former client of ours. They had an app development team that went from traditional enterprise delivery to ‘full DevOps’. The team was focused on owning their delivery cycle from start to finish, remaining true to DevOps principles throughout. This made their progress look like the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph: for the first three months they maintained a steady velocity but didn’t produce much in the way of tangible results. The leadership team, much to their credit, gave them the space to do their DevOps transformation properly. They didn’t ask why little had been released yet, forcing the team to do so before they were ready, although they remained engaged and asked plenty of great questions to ensure the transformation was going smoothly. Soon, the exponential ‘hockey stick’ kicked in, leading to a hugely positive impact on the business, and happier employees.

Any successful DevOps transformation requires such strong championship from leadership and other critical stakeholders.

Start From Where You Are

To recap, the most important things to keep in mind is that your DevOps transformation can and will be solved. You just need proper alignment throughout all aspects of your organization and buy-in from your team members executing the work. Remember, in a few years your business will look completely different—in a good way—so put one foot in front of the other and start down the path already!

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