Gartner: 5 Key Steps to Delivering an Agile I&O Culture
April 23, 2015

Infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders planning a bimodal IT strategy will miss out on the benefits of DevOps support for agile practices unless they transform their I&O culture, according to Gartner, Inc.

Gartner said that the implementation of a bimodal IT strategy requires careful planning and execution. Analysts predict that, by 2018, three quarters of enterprise IT organizations will have tried to create a bimodal capability, but that less than 50 percent of those will reap the benefits of improved agility and risk management.

"I&O leaders are under pressure to support customers who want to go faster, so they are utilizing agile development," said Ian Head, Research Director at Gartner. "However, movement to agile will not, and should not, be a wholesale immediate change. Instead, it should first be implemented in areas where there is a very real business need for speed, and then carefully rolled out — taking the culture of the organization into account."

Gartner has developed the strategy known as "bimodal IT" which refers to having two modes of IT. Mode 1 is traditional, emphasizing scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy, while Mode 2 is nonsequential, emphasizing agility and speed.

"Changing the behaviors and culture are fundamental to the success of a bimodal IT approach. We estimate that, by 2018, 90 percent of I&O organizations attempting to use DevOps without specifically addressing their cultural foundations will fail," said Head. "We do not advocate wholesale cultural change in a single organization-wide program. Instead, I&O leaders should focus their efforts on an initial, small Mode 2 team, establish the values and behaviors needed, and take incremental efforts to recognize and reinforce desired outcomes prior to scaling."

The following five-step approach will help I&O leaders achieve an agile I&O culture:

1. Identify Your Mode 2 Behavioral Gap Analysis

To begin addressing cultural challenges, conduct a behavioral gap analysis to understand differences between the current state and desired state. Be sure to confirm the behavioral gap analysis with select peers and key team members. It is important to both identify the key behaviors to focus on initially and recognize which can be immediately addressed. People also need to understand why the selected behaviors matter to the organization.

2. Work With Key Stakeholders to Gain Consensus on the Approach

Identify the key stakeholders with the intention of gaining consensus for behaviors required and developing a plan to put them in place to support Mode 2 and DevOps. An important message for leadership to bear in mind throughout is that Mode 2 is not better than Mode 1. All IT staff have a job to do — to deliver IT services that meet customer needs. They can't do this if new silos are inadvertently created and reinforced.

3. Start With a Small, Focused Pilot

The plan must be to start the DevOps effort with a small, focused pilot that will allow the concepts to be tested and corrective actions taken on a small, controlled scale. Do not start the pilot in an area with a very high probability of failure, or an area that is seen as a very easy win, as either of these may deliver incorrect expectations that will influence behavior. Making noise about early success stories, especially those demonstrating that the desired cultural shift is underway, will reinforce the change's momentum. It will also communicate that I&O leaders are supporting the change. The pilot should run until the stakeholders are satisfied that there is enough experience to scale efforts to another group.

4. Deploy Behaviors Incrementally to Successive Groups With Feedback Loops

Identify which group to target next and then work on reapplying the behavioral patterns and lessons learned. It is critical to do these iterations as sprints; multiple efforts with one group are fine, but do not let time frames push out. The idea behind multiple short implementation efforts is to both allow for greater focus and care during each iteration, and collect lessons learned in order to take corrective actions between iterations as the organization changes.

5. Pursue Continual Improvement

The competitive environment in which the business operates will change over time. As the needs of customers evolve in response to external and internal pressures, so I&O must be prepared to change as well. One difference between Mode 1 and Mode 2 IT is that change will be continual in Mode 2. In response, DevOps teams and their parent organizations must continually monitor outcomes and actively search for improvement opportunities.

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