What Factors Impede DevOps Transformation Programs in 2023?
January 23, 2023

Brian Galura

Another year, another opportunity for change. Laying off sugar is probably what change looks like to some of us. For an increasing number of organizations competing for market share in 2023, change is adopting a DevOps culture. It is the beginning of a DevOps transformation journey that integrates efficient technology adoption with a new companywide philosophy toward delivering products and services.

But a DevOps transformation journey isn't always a walk in the park. The road can often be complex and filled with challenges, with the looming threat of failure, frustration, and lost resources.

Ultimately, you cannot purposefully avoid what you don't understand. That's why the rest of this blog focuses on outlining the common reasons for DevOps transformation program failures so that you can successfully avoid them and drive your team toward the best chance at success.

DevOps transformation programs can be complicated and time-consuming, so starting small and gradually building momentum is essential. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming your team and derailing the entire process. So before we delve in, let's identify and understand the key roles and responsibilities of the DevOps team in transformation exercises.

Roles and Responsibilities in the DevOps Team

Unsuccessful DevOps projects are characterized by organizational leads failing to realize that people are the essential variable. A successful DevOps transition program requires establishing new or revised responsibilities. Organizations seeking to adopt a successful DevOps strategy must fill these roles and develop relevant skills to execute the associated duties.

Chief Innovation Officer (CIO): The CIO drives innovation within the organization. This role is critical in large organizations where innovation often needs a clear-cut framework and mission. In this unique position, the CIO is the first to drive DevOps transformation within the company. Some responsibilities of the CIO include supporting best practices and overseeing staff training to develop new critical skills.

DevOps evangelist: The DevOps Evangelist is the agent of change responsible for driving and implementing the adoption of a DevOps culture. This role ensures the deployment and success of all DevOps procedures and team identities the deployment and success of all DevOps procedures and team identities.

Release manager: In a DevOps architecture, the Code Release Manager often serves as the Project Manager. In addition, the Code Release Manager must possess the technical ability and understanding required to manage the product and application development and delivery process. A DevOps Code Release manager must also know when and how to use agile approaches.

Automation architect: A DevOps team needs an Automation Architect since DevOps is all about automating systems. The Automation Architect's role is to design procedures that leverage automation to decrease manual labor. They are responsible for building a more efficient process while locating and integrating the right technologies inside a DevOps framework.

Software developer/tester: The Software Developer is the product's creator. Developers are primarily responsible for developing code. In a DevOps environment, they handle unit testing, deployment, and continuous monitoring. This is an advanced role compared to the conventional developer's position, which stops at writing code.

Experience assurance (XA) professional: The Experience Assurance Expert is similar to quality assurance. However, it primarily focuses on the client experience and ease of use. The Experience Assurance Expert, or XA, ensures that the finished product provides a positive user experience. They ensure that the final product is functional and equipped with the appropriate features, and user-friendly.

Security engineer: The Security and Compliance Engineer (SCE) is accountable for the system's overall security. In DevOps, the SCE works in tandem with development and implements security suggestions as the product is being created rather than after it has been released. They collaborate closely with all departments and roles to maintain the company's data security and compliance with regulatory regulations.

Reasons Why Most DevOps Transformations Fail

We will examine why most DevOps transitions fail to achieve the desired goals.

Establishing a New Department

The first step taken by most firms is to establish a new department where employees employ the DevOps approach. This method is ineffective as it goes against the recommended DevOps principles.

DevOps seeks to eliminate segmented teamwork in favor of an open-communication culture that simplifies the software development process. Creating a new DevOps team or department results in the formation of another division inside the business and adds to the bureaucracy that already impedes an effective work environment.

Limiting Intervention to Dev and Ops

A total DevOps transformation exercise should not be limited to development and operations teams. It must include all stakeholders engaged in getting the product market-ready. It must also cover various responsibilities throughout the company — business personnel, developers, operations teams, security teams, quality assurance personnel, and anyone else engaged in releasing the product.

DevOps is a mindset of collaboration in which individuals' specific roles and titles are irrelevant. In this sense, an effective DevOps transformation program requires an organization-wide cultural shift that must include all stakeholders involved in product delivery.

Regulatory and Compliance Bottlenecks

In regulated industries like healthcare or Fintech, compliance requirements from regulatory bodies can impede DevOps transformation programs. This is usually because of the additional data handling requirements imposed by regulations like HIPAA, SOC2, PCI, etc. Mainstream infrastructure tools are often ill-equipped to meet these regulatory bodies' rigorous data access demands.

It is essential to do due diligence and seek out specialized DevOps tools that will meet regulatory requirements at the beginning of the transformation exercise rather than starting with standard tools and having to course-correct after failing an audit.

Failure to Incorporate Culture

Project managers tend to focus on the tools and other resources required for a DevOps transition, with the idea that success is enabled primarily by access to the right resources. It's easy to forget that merging Dev and Ops is not an overnight process. This is because frequent (weekly or even daily) code delivery requires a fundamental change in how team members allocate their time.

DevOps practices also encourage higher cooperation levels, which can be fostered by team-building activities to connect different employees. DevOps projects must include an orientation phase during which team members get hands-on experience with the technologies and procedures to be employed. This transition should take place in a setting that mimics the operational environment, highlighting the high-stakes aspect of jobs while providing workers with the opportunity to learn.

With sufficient DevOps training, team members will adapt their outlook and adopt new routines that prepare them for the demands of a DevOps approach. Ultimately, firms transitioning to a DevOps culture should move away from bureaucratic practices and toward more agile methods.

Absence of Clear Messaging and Guidance

It is not uncommon for CIOs and other IT professionals to believe that their firms are falling behind in this age of widespread digital transformation. As a result, some executives implement a DevOps transformation exercise to follow the trend and avoid getting outdone by the competition — aka FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

With a FOMO mindset, executives are limited in their ability to connect the dots from DevOps adoption to their strategic goals — whether it's improving software delivery, cost-efficiency, enhancing security, or a mix of these goals. This gap in understanding precedes failure to articulate the link between DevOps adoption and organizational objectives, competitive advantage, and clear, measurable goals to work towards harmonizing these elements.

Worse still, this absence of measurable goals leaves teams lacking fodder for a complete evaluation to determine the performance of the DevOps transformation exercise. If the goals are left to team members' imaginations, the team as a whole is open to confusion, with individuals having diverse perspectives on how to achieve them.

Unchallenged Budget-Roadmap Connections

One common challenge organizations face in the early phases of a DevOps transformation program is establishing the exact amount of capital required. It is important to remember that the timing of resource provision impacts the release schedule.

The conventional method of outlining exact budgets for extended periods could impose roadblocks to implementing the DevOps roadmap effectively. First, teams might find restrictions on the number of resources available for deployment within a particular time frame. Then there's the significant paperwork involved in acquiring additional funding to handle unpredictable occurrences.

These restrictions impede attempts to increase the pace of meeting deliverables, which is the opposite of what a DevOps transformation exercise aims to achieve. Beyond budgeting, project managers should use systems such as rolling projections in tandem with goal definitions that are based on market developments. This approach decentralizes some decision-making processes and establishes an adaptable management style that promotes DevOps success.

How to Increase Your Chances of a Successful DevOps Transformation Exercise

For all stakeholders involved in DevOps transformation decision-making, these fundamental requirements increase your chances of success.

■ Obtain comprehensive buy-in from all stakeholders, whether from the business, technical, or management side. If this transition impacts any employee at even the most basic level (such as non-essential employees whose schedules may vary), it is critical to get them on board.

■ Outline well-defined, prioritized objectives, ranging from the most critical organization-wide goal to the least essential process, tool, or personnel-related goal. Adopt a flexible mentality by monitoring critical macro elements and anticipating market fluctuations that necessitate adjustments to your fundamental goals.

■ Concentrate on marginal gains. Identify areas where minor improvements are possible and establish them as your minimum. While attempting to set records for the fastest delivery might seem exciting, this approach could set you up for the perfect teardown.

■ Seek DevOps infrastructure platforms that can help automate and coordinate your entire process and help you meet all regulatory requirements. 

By identifying areas with potential for small change, your transformation exercise is more likely to experience consistency and adapt quickly to unforeseen circumstances while enabling team members to create incremental future improvements.

Key Takeaways

■ Adopting a DevOps culture is not a magic pill for fixing all your organization's issues. DevOps is about a cultural transformation that improves the efficiency of software development teams. Full adoption of a functional DevOps culture can only occur once the entire organization jointly tackles the cultural difficulties inherent to big companies.

■ DevOps transformations can fail for several reasons. These factors include an unprepared approach, a lack of clear communication, failure to incorporate culture, and unchallenged budgets and roadmaps.

■ A lack of clear goals or buy-in from senior management can doom even the best-laid plans.

But don't let that discourage you — there are ways to increase your chances for success. And remember, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Make sure you invest in training and education for your team and promote collaboration across silos.

Convox is a self-hosted, multi-cloud PaaS that developers use to automate Kubernetes-based deployments, while staying compliant with regulatory bodies.

Brian Galura is CEO of Convox
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