Many of the CIOs (and their teams) I advise are under tremendous pressure to reinvent themselves, their roles, and drive transformation across their IT organizations. Business and competitive pressures, which now assume lower costs, really focus on improving employee productivity, cost avoidance, increased innovation, and delivering “speed” as a competitive differentiation.
Companies like Amazon, Etsy, Facebook and Google use speed, delivered from their DevOps investments across people, process and technologies, as a way to drive their business results. These are now dominant C-level, and board-level conversations, and are increasingly not only as expected business outcomes, but CIO compensation goals.
To achieve these goals, CIOs and their teams across application development and IT operations must rethink what they do, and how they do it. The legacy methods of delivering business services is increasingly not good enough; it’s too slow, expensive, and disconnected from the customer. This is where DevOps practices can help.
One definition of DevOps which makes sense is: “….a methodology and set of practices that unify a team consisting of business leadership, development, testing, deployment, and operations to be responsible for the creation and delivery of business capabilities.”
As you might recognize, DevOps requires a very different way of delivering business services than the historical model of a separate application development and IT operations silos, each working in their own language, own performance metrics, and with different reporting structures. It was often slow, utilized too many tools, lots of finger pointing between silos, and created business services that were hard to deploy and update, and even harder to identify performance problems until after they cause a customer disruption.
Creating a DevOps team, or center of excellence, enables a focus that delivers more team collaboration, cross-silo integration (in some cases no silos), and a singular team that are compensated on a common set of performance goals directly responsible for each other. These teams fail fast and fail cheap. Everyone is responsible for a single service, from development, deployment, and ongoing management.
The goal of DevOps teams is to increase the speed and quality of business services. Every CIO, and CEO needs this. And most cloud native applications offer benefits that are enhanced because of how DevOps teams operate. I also see many DevOps teams driving IT transformation. Besides the benefits already noted, we also find that transformation is actually accelerated as adjacent staff become more interested in DevOps and changing the way they think and work.
Transformation is always started from the bottom up. Staff have to understand why they need to change, and what’s in it for them. There has to be self-interest, as well as clear benefits for individuals as to why they should change. Because DevOps teams have clear executive management line of site and sponsorship, they can communicate their wins faster and help other non-team staff better understand what works best, and why things should change. These are some of the required seeds of transformation driving significant change in any organization.
However, it should be clear that for most CIOs, not every business service should be delivered via DevOps practices. There are services that will always require certain risk controls and processes that need the traditional delivery model. That is OK. However, moving forward we are seeing more CIOs use DevOps practices to deploy services faster with higher quality and incorporate customer feedback at any point in the service delivery cycle. The neat thing about DevOps is that it’s about improving the customer experience because of more efficient and effective IT execution.
And one more thing, DevOps is a great compliment to the existing investments that IT has made in Agile development and ITIL-based processes across IT operations. It’s really an extension of Agile. Our conversations indicate that there are ways that DevOps practices can get better by reusing ITIL processes as they reduce risks and can drive a fast, automated process. There are always pitfalls, but there is no stopping the focus and investments in DevOps moving forward. It just makes business sense; the risks of not trying it far outweigh the benefits.