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By Robert Christiansen
Alexander Graham Bell famously said, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” I agree wholeheartedly with Bell’s declaration, but what if the people you’re trying to bring together mix about as well as oil and water?
That’s the challenge of cloud teams. How can you get IT Operations (IT Ops) to work well with Developers (Dev)? After all, the two groups have had a blame and counter-blame relationship for quite some time. Developers want to release features as quickly and efficiently as possible. IT wants to ensure infrastructure (whether it is on-premises or off-premises) is reliable, secure, and meets corporate policies. And as each group tries to achieve their goals, it’s all too easy to blame one another when things go wrong.
Setting aside the blame game – your business’s survival depends on it
Although old habits die hard, IT Ops and Dev need to realize they will benefit from an improved relationship. The survival of your business could very well depend on it. If your company can’t develop and innovate fast enough, your competition will overtake you.
For example, ten years ago, who would have thought you could buy a mattress in a box and have it shipped to your door? Even more surprising, who imagined a service to have your teeth straightened—without expensive and time-consuming dental visits? Just take some pictures, send in a mold, and you’ll be sent a new set of aligners monthly to achieve your perfect smile.
Your IT Ops team needs to understand and acknowledge the efficiency and productivity gains the Dev team needs through feature releases. Likewise, your Dev team knows they need to partner with IT Ops to ensure they have the resources they need to deliver services faster.
So how do you get these two groups to play together nicely? Below I list 5 proven ways to improve innovation and collaboration.
1. Infuse cooperation from the start
There’s no better time to turn over a new leaf of cooperation than at the start of a new initiative. All parties are embarking upon a different way of doing things, so now is the time to lay down the ground rules. And the first rule mandates cooperation.
The basis of this newly discovered cooperation is communication, a two-way street between all participants. By encouraging better communication at the very beginning, you ensure everyone’s needs are heard. As you run into obstacles, the two groups will be better armed to deal with the give-and-takecompromises that are needed to resolve any conflict.
2. Teach cooperation
Keep in mind cooperation must be taught, as it is not in the DNA of most IT Ops and Dev teams. This lesson is a difficult one, and it may require several different techniques to accomplish.
For example, when controversy strikes, get both groups in the same room to talk it out. Now is not the time for a virtual conversations. It may take some time, but it is time well-spent as you develop groundwork that will help you work through many difficult situations in the future. At the very core of innovation is fluid communication between team members concerning what is working and what isn’t.
At some point, you may need to call someone out – let them know they are blocking the success of the organization. Remember, the stakes are high; innovation requires cooperation and teamwork. Although this step may be uncomfortable, it is important.
3. Choose your leaders wisely while you shuffle the deck
Don’t forget – great change demands great leaders. These are the coaches who inspire and motivate teams to venture into the unknown. Selecting strong and insightful leaders will mean the difference between success and failure. They will not only help build new careers for themselves and their team, they will be on the frontlines of the success or failure of your business.
Another suggestion is to shuffle the deck and move leaders to other departments. For example, expose an IT Ops leader to development groups – working with them to see how they operate. A fresh viewpoint on a subject will give them perspective and compassion for their counterparts.
4. Small, combined teams must self-select their roles
As you assign cloud teams, keep the size small. I like to say they should be a 2-pizza box team, meaning the size of the group should be no bigger than the number of people it takes to consume 2 pizzas. You want to keep the size small and manageable, so they remain nimble and leverage automation whenever and where ever they can.
Also, make sure the team members are self-starters, people who show initiative and are excited to be part of a new, transformative process. And once the team members are chosen, let them self-select their roles. Each person needs to feel as though they can contribute maximum value. By letting them self-select their roles, they have the confidence to provide valuable feedback.
5. Create safety in the group
No one will go out on a limb and suggest anything innovative if they feel emotionally unsafe. Your teams have to be blame-free. So as your IT Ops and Dev groups come together to create more agile processes and, ultimately, a better business, make sure they feel safe. Each participant must be able to speak up safely, questioning traditional tactics or truths without any retribution.
In order to stay competitive, you must rely on your IT Ops and Dev teams to work together. Only through increased cooperation can businesses hope to compete effectively in today’s software-powered, agile environments. As new competitors disrupt your industry, you probably already have the talent you need to succeed – you just need to bring them together.
Robert Christiansen is a cloud technology leader, best-selling author, mentor, and speaker. In his role as VP of Global Cloud Delivery at Cloud Technology Partners (CTP), a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, Christiansen oversees the delivery of professional services and innovation for HPE’s public cloud business. His client base includes Fortune 500 and Global 2000 customers, and his team’s leadership model encompasses the entire IT transformation journey, from inception to execution.