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DevOpsGroup Blog How to unleash the full power of Azure DevOps

How to unleash the full power of Azure DevOps

What’s not to like about Microsoft’s Azure DevOps? With the ability to use the hosted version in the cloud or deploy to your own datacentre it’s a powerful ally. It offers a one-stop suite of services to create continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. These services range from version control, requirements planning and management, test case management and artefact management to powerful build and release management capabilities. In fact, Azure DevOps covers much of the application lifecycle with out-of-the-box components that work together seamlessly.

However, just because the tools and components slot together easily, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get the best out of them. What’s more, there are so many potential options that it can be difficult to know where to start.

Getting more from Azure DevOps

Whether you’re moving from Microsoft TFS to Azure DevOps, or implementing an entirely new set-up, the biggest challenge is piecing core elements together in an effective way. It’s easy to do ‘something’ quickly. But building a sophisticated pipeline is much harder. In fact, unless you have a good grasp of CI/CD principles, the solutions you develop may introduce as many problems as they solve. We’ve seen pipelines where huge numbers of tasks were grouped together in one stage: to test or troubleshoot any individual task, all the others had to be disabled. This is time consuming, frustrating and entirely defeats the purpose.

Having witnessed perfectly competent and capable IT teams tying themselves in knots, Bob Larkin and Graham Smith developed a DevOpsGroup Academy training course focused on getting the most out of Azure DevOps Services. As a DevOps Engineer and Senior DevOps Consultant respectively, they know a thing or two about CI/CD and DevOps. What’s more, they have practical experience helping businesses transform complex scenarios into simple, frictionless pipelines. This is practitioner-led training at its finest, going beyond the theory and enabling delegates to immerse themselves in new ways of working.

Time spent away from day-to-day tasks to hone Azure DevOps skills is time well spent. It offers a shortcut to proficiency. And it provides an opportunity to get hands-on experience minus the distractions and constraints of the organisation.

A shortcut to proficiency

While Azure DevOps is essentially an off-the-shelf solution, pipelines need to be assembled in a way that is bespoke to your organisation’s needs. Figuring out the best way to do this with unfamiliar tools and components takes time. But the pace of ongoing work and the urgency of immediate priorities doesn’t change. In-house software developers and architects rarely have the time or space to explore the full capabilities of the services on offer. And it’s easy to go down the wrong path.

Ringfencing a couple of days for in-depth Azure DevOps training saves time and ensures better outcomes in the long run. Because the course is devised and delivered by people with from-the-trenches experience, delegates directly benefit from years of real-world learnings and insights.

Play with cool the stuff without forgetting the important stuff

The course is very much hands-on training in a lab context, providing an opportunity to build idealised CI/CD pipelines in Azure DevOps that deploy to an Azure subscription. Delegates can practice using new tools away from the messiness of existing applications, then apply their learnings back in the workplace.

Azure DevOps has lots of great features. But it’s their strategic application and integration that really makes a difference to pipeline effectiveness and efficiency. The course demonstrates principles and best practice, so delegates are aware of them. If they’re not used back at the coalface, it should be a conscious decision, rather than an oversight.

Bringing theory to life

With expert practitioners on-hand throughout, delegates can ask questions related to their own systems during the training process. They also gain first-hand experience working with Kanban boards, backlogs and sprints. These are still novel concepts to many, so actively engaging with them alongside people who use them daily can be hugely beneficial.

We found this to be the case when we worked with a UK charity that works globally to help people escape poverty. It was starting out on the cloud adoption journey, and had no prior experience with DevOps, automation or CI/CD. Our task was to empower a team of eight, comprising software developers, a software architect, a solutions architect and managers, to quickly derive value from their new Azure DevOps investment.  

Combining Azure DevOps Services training with consultancy and engineering services from DevOpsGroup has helped the team get off to a strong start. Since the charity had many disparate systems, a core priority was putting in new cloud-based foundations enabling them to talk to each other. The next phase will focus on identifying where and how infrastructure as code can improve CI/CD pipelines. Completing the Azure DevOps Services training upfront has given the team confidence to embrace the new ways of working by ensuring a shared understanding of the challenges – and opportunities – that lie ahead.  

Skilfully architected pipelines

Azure DevOps puts better integration, traceability and auditability within reach, bringing tangible business performance improvements. But to unlock the full power and benefits, its components need to be skilfully architected into CI/CD pipelines. For maximum effectiveness, discrete elements of individual applications need to be teased out and interdependencies reduced. Our Azure DevOps Services training helps you do all this and more. See the full course overview here.

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