DevOps is enabling an increasing number of organisations to accelerate their Digital Transformation plans. The approach is also ensuring that innovations, such as improved systems and better customer experience, are delivered via a continuous upgrade process, rather than taking place through a series of infrequent iterative jumps.
To adopt DevOps, an organisation must embrace new ways of working. The first step is often a relatively small pilot, aimed at driving innovation within a specific department or function. In other words, a limited exercise to test the water.
This is an ideal way to begin a DevOps journey, but it is only a first step. Once DevOps has proved its worth, most management teams will seek to extend the benefits of the approach to the wider organisation.
The Importance of Scale
The need for innovation does not exist in isolated pockets within corporate structures. A company that focuses solely on streamlining the supply chain and reducing cost, while assuming that two year old customer service systems are still fit for purpose, may well fall victim to those competitors who innovate ceaselessly across the board. Once DevOps has proved its value at the pilot stage, it is vital to scale up – effectively positioning innovation at the centre of the entire organisation’s mission.
The less desirable alternative is a two speed organisation – one in which some functions are responding rapidly to competitive disruption in the market while others slowly move forward. This ”bi-modal” approach exposes companies to the risk of losing market share to rivals taking a more holistic approach. It also sets up a lopsided internal dynamic: Staff in one function see another part of the business reaping the benefits of a DevOps approach, while they struggle to keep up with competitor innovation, resulting in a lower morale. You could call it DevOps envy.
An organisation that pilots DevOps in a limited way will be bi-modal for a period of time, but it’s not a situation that should be allowed to continue for longer than necessary. As the pilot is bedded in, managers should be putting plans in place for a more comprehensive DevOps deployment.
These are the five key steps:
1. Set Expectations
Every large organisation has its own way of doing things. In terms of IT, that not only means well-established processes, structures and management hierarchies but also systems. DevOps will impact all areas. The emphasis placed by DevOps on bringing together IT teams with development and operational staff working together in new units will require a significant cultural change.
This cannot be done overnight.
It is important to set realistic expectations. The transition to DevOps might take many months, or perhaps several years, depending on the makeup of the organisation. In setting expectations, managers should decide on a timescale and set realistic targets.
2. Where are you now? Assess your current position
Every initiative has a starting point, but where that point actually resides depends on the current position of the organisation.
We recommend a discovery exercise (something that DevOpsGuys can help with), to identify the problems that the organisation faces, the issues that need addressing with the greatest urgency and the bottlenecks in the current system. This process will enable you to set targets and priorities.
It is also vital to look at the structure of the organisation and the various stakeholders who must be involved as DevOps is scaled up. Buy-in is vital. This not only means winning the support of C-level executives but also the wider workforce. We estimate that at least half of the organisation must be aware of the urgency, if a DevOps initiative is to succeed.
3. Embrace Experimentation
The DevOps model fosters innovation through rapid learning and many of the most important lessons will stem directly from experimentation and the testing of ideas.
Teams should be encouraged to try out new ideas quickly and fearlessly. This means moving quickly to the stage where ‘Minimum Viable Products’ (MVPs) can be piloted in real world situations. The prerequisite is a culture where software can be rapidly rolled out and monitored. From a management perspective, this means tolerance of failure – perhaps numerous failures – and the ability to not only recognise success but also build on it.
4. Build Capability
An organisation can take its first steps on a DevOps journey using existing IT and operational staff. However, as the initiative is scaled up, it is important to systematically map the skills available and identify the gaps. Over time, this will enable the organisation to build a formidable in-house capability.
5. Draw on External Expertise
It is equally important to draw on external expertise in the shape of developers and consultants who understand the DevOps ethos. These individuals will have the experience to embed the necessary skills and mindset within organisations where the concept is new and perhaps little understood.
By drawing on external skills, you bring in the knowledge and insight which can be passed on to internal teams.
Scaling up DevOps can be a significant challenge and one that requires commitment and a carefully laid out plan. Our team at DevOpsGuys can provide the skills and insight that organisations require, both to introduce DevOps and then extend its benefits.
In our whitepaper – DevOps: Unlocking the Value from Digital Transformation – we explore the challenges and solutions to bring Digital Transformation initiatives to organisations in a range of industries. We also demonstrate how DevOps can be deployed for success. To find out more about how DevOps can be scaled up within large enterprises, please get in touch.