Digital Transformation is continuing to revolutionise the way that organisations in all sectors deliver services to customers, transact with suppliers and manage internal processes. The mantra “every business is a digital business” was first coined at the peak of the dot com boom, but the early embrace of internet technologies that characterised the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was just the start of a prolonged era of breathtaking change and innovation. Today, no business of any size can afford to fall behind. The penalty for failing to keep up with digital change is – sooner or later – lower productivity and reduced competitiveness.
That has meant businesses becoming “digital” in the most fundamental sense. IT is no longer merely a facilitator of pre-defined business processes and it is certainly not something that is simply “brought in” when the need arises. Instead, it is integral to innovation. Software – and software development – is a core competency.
For that reason, organisations must look closely at their approach to developing software, whether internally or in partnership with third parties. In an age when Digital Transformation is a priority for everyone, it is those who can most successfully harness the talents of their developers and IT teams that will steal the competitive edge.
Starting with DevOps
The need to reassess and rebuild software development programmes has seen many organisations embrace the DevOps approach. At the core of DevOps is the awareness that businesses cannot afford to innovate in isolated steps – through new iterations every year or so – followed by long periods of stability (or stasis). In today’s competitive landscape, innovation should be constant. The DevOps methodology, which combines Agile processes with continual feedback and input from stakeholders, enables software innovations to be released on an ongoing rolling basis. Because the outcomes of each release are constantly being assessed and fed back to developers by end users and closely-involved operational teams, the Digital Transformation can be refined on an ongoing basis.
But adopting DevOps does require a rebuilding of IT capability, aligned with a plan for Digital Transformation. The obvious first question is: Where do I start?
Mapping the Road Ahead
The first step is to draw a roadmap for the transition to DevOps from the current IT development methodology. As we’ve discussed in earlier blogs, this process should also define – or redefine – the organisation’s vision for Digital Transformation in terms of priorities for the immediate future and the long-term goals.
The process of adopting DevOps can play an important role in identifying priorities. Very few companies will attempt to introduce DevOps across all (or even most) of their organisational functions. It is best to start with specific projects and then scale up and out progressively. Deciding on where to start provides a lens through which to locate those areas of the operation that are most in need of attention.
The Role of DevOps Consultants
Perhaps the biggest initial challenge revolves around understanding the full implications and potential of DevOps. By definition, an organisation that is preparing to transition to the new methodology will be entering very unfamiliar territory. There may be a wealth of in-house IT skills but not any deep knowledge of DevOps.
It is therefore important to consider whether it is necessary to seek external assistance in the form of a DevOps consultancy. Often this is the best way forward. Skilled consultants will bring to bear their experience of how DevOps has transformed comparable organisations in the same and other sectors and they can help embed best practices at the earliest stage.
Our experience demonstrates that the involvement of a consultancy can help ensure that the roadmap is appropriate for the organisation. For instance, our consultants can advise on specific implementation plans that take into account the transformation priorities, the appetite for change within the organisation and the current IT capabilities.
We can also help organisations consider some fundamental questions regarding the skills required and whether to build an in-house capability, outsource much of the development work or use specialist contractors. There are advantages to outsourcing – not least in terms of cost – but in our view it is better to build an in-house capability. This can be done with the help of contractors who will work on-site and bring in skills that can be shared. But again there are disadvantages. For example, it can be difficult to hire suitably skilled individuals. We can help you weigh up the options.
We’ll be discussing more about outsourcing question in our next blog.
In our white paper – DevOps: Unlocking the Value from Digital Transformation – we explore the challenges and solutions to bringing Digital Transformation initiatives to organisations in a range of industries, and how DevOps can be deployed for success. To find out about getting started with DevOps, please get in touch.