Demystifying DevOps - It's About People Not Technology
June 11, 2018

Bob Davis
Plutora

The ability to create a culture of DevOps is critical to any organization's ability to deliver applications and services at a high rate of speed, but can we clearly and concisely answer the question: What exactly is DevOps?

Although the basic concepts have been around for more than a decade, the term itself didn't frequently appear until 2008. While many startups and software companies with a culture of "fail fast, fail often" have been able to implement DevOps best practices, it's large enterprises that are now recognizing the need to apply DevOps practices that will gain them a competitive edge. However, despite the best intentions, some large companies are struggling to understand what DevOps actually is, and what it takes to fully implement its concepts and reap its benefits.

Implementing Isn't Easy

One widespread myth of DevOps is that it is simpler. In many instances, DevOps may be simpler for specific jobs in IT, but this ease of deployment comes at a cost. It can place an added burden on the ops team's ability to regulate the control and quality management of the team as seamlessly because things are coming at them more quickly. In extreme cases, they can be live in production before ops is able to verify quality.

As with any process in any organization, the amount of effort required to support software delivery is immense. If you are managing a large enterprise, you will have teams accountable for quality, performance and change management. The difference with DevOps is the way in which automation is leveraged to place control in the hands of application development teams and redefines the relationship between operations and development. This is a good thing, and we can continue to make progress by bringing the lessons of DevOps to the enterprise, but as we do we need to also consider next steps.

Tools that can account for risk and clearly defined roles associated with a release are imperative. Letting developers loose on production and hoping for the best isn't enough, you'll need tools that take operations into account to understand who is responsible for a build.

Change management teams also need to be involved in DevOps initiatives. The release processes associated with classic operations methodologies are often seen as the problem when moving fast, so there is constant push and pull – pushing to release faster without compromising quality, something that those operations release processes are chartered with protecting. In the largest organizations, production control is an essential component of managing release risk.

Quality DevOps Requires a Quality Culture

A common talking point around DevOps is that it is simply a development methodology, when in reality, DevOps requires multiple factors to be implemented successfully, with culture being as critical as process or method.

Companies often think they're doing DevOps because they bought "X" tool. But actually, DevOps is what creates new processes, new organizational structures and new methodologies that facilitate organizational growth by coordinating the work of individual employees with the larger whole of the organization.

Tools are only 27% of what organizations should focus on when implementing DevOps

The solution isn't just more automation and more tools, it requires attention to processes and culture. According to a Gartner study, tools are only 27% of what organizations should focus on when implementing DevOps. The other 73% consists of attention to culture and communication, information exchanges, and building operations process and organizational consistency.

To truly implement DevOps, everyone must buy in fully by beginning to empathize with each department outside of their own, and care about what takes place outside of their corner of the world. If we ask the question: What was biggest hurdle in achieving more agile methodology? Each time, the answer will be: Developing a culture and based on communication and collaboration.

The aim of DevOps is to create one team to automate and streamline the software release process. Without DevOps, the wall of confusion between Dev and Ops conspires against your organization. Having more tools alone doesn't solve this problem, instead it requires these tools to be combined with an overall quality structural culture.

Only Unicorns Can Do DevOps

Large organizations such as Facebook and Google are the most widely known companies that make use of DevOps methodologies to provide fast, up to date features. And while continuous delivery, and the processes that help teams achieve it, is in fact the foundation of modern operations teams within the most recognized web companies, it's a concept that applies to the entire spectrum of modern software delivery.

This agility and ability to develop at increased velocity are imperative to the survival of the likes of the aforementioned internet giants in this modern release cycle climate, but it is just as important for any size company as software now powers every business transaction.

Having the ability to rapidly make updated software versions available is critical to pleasing customers who have a low tolerance for under-performing software.

DevOps Isn't Just a Technology

There are countless things that define your success and failure in DevOps but your first thought should be, it's not ONLY a technology. If the goal consists of increasing speed and quality while improving the overall customer experience, then DevOps provides the ability to respond more quickly to the constant barrage of requests coming in from customers. Instant gratification has taken over, and people expect things to happen more quickly, so organizations need to be more nimble and faster than they have ever been.

There are many more misconceptions that should be addressed in time. But the overarching message should be that the goal of DevOps is to deliver features faster, more frequently and with higher quality by unifying both development and operations. Many IT organizations have been successful adopting these practices, but DevOps has not been widely adopted in the enterprise due to apprehensions brought on by some of these myths.

It's also important to point out that DevOps isn't putting people out of work. Instead it's helping bridge the gap through integration and collaboration to make life easier in organizations. It doesn't force people to become who they're not. DevOps promotes tolerance, cooperation and shared responsibilities between development and operations teams.

If your organization isn't continuously implementing a culture and communication channels to improve new software and reduce software development and delivery cycles, then you can be certain that there are dozens of other companies that are beating you to the punch.

Bob Davis is CMO at Plutora
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