More and more organizations claim that they have adopted DevOps. Along with ‘digital’, ‘agile’ and countless others, DevOps is now an IT industry buzzword. Further, the role of DevOps engineer is increasingly part of the IT mix. But do we all really understand what DevOps is? And what cultural change does ‘real’ DevOps require for it to deliver results?
As its name suggests DevOps brings together development and operations in a seamless delivery culture built on collaboration. Yet, it seems that many people think once they have automated their infrastructure ‘as-code’ or implemented continuous integration/delivery tooling, they are now ‘doing DevOps’. But that’s only the start. DevOps is more than just automation. It requires companies to re-think their separate ‘deliver’ and ‘run’ organizations because this separation (still prevalent) prevents true DevOps from becoming a reality.
The digital shift
There is an interesting parallel between DevOps and the shift to digital (of which DevOps is a component). It’s one of culture. If you only see DevOps from a technology perspective, you’re getting it wrong. Like digital, DevOps is a culture, not a technology skill.
So, I’m interested in a recent Capgemini report into the cultural obstacles to effective digital transformation. It seems to me that the findings reported in ‘The Digital Culture Challenge: Closing the Employee-Leadership Gap’ could apply equally to DevOps. For example, it cites two of the seven key attributes of a digital culture as collaboration, and agility & flexibility in combination. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the same with DevOps.
The report reveals a disconnect between what senior leadership believes and how employees feel. While 40% of senior executives said their organization had a digital culture, only 27% of the employees felt the same way. Similarly, while just 41% of employees believe they easily collaborate across their organization, that figure rises to 85% amongst business leaders.
Leading from the top
This is reflective of the disconnect in terms of how DevOps is viewed. That’s why I am a firm believer in an organization’s leadership taking a greater interest in DevOps beyond it being ‘a way code is delivered or an enterprise iPaaS is provisioned’. Rather, DevOps demands a clear strategy and direction from the leadership: one that drives DevOps as a cultural way of working.
In this, again I refer back to the ‘Digital Culture’ report, in which it states that business leaders must take clear action to redress the leadership-employee divide. This includes the advice to: “Adjust KPIs or the incentive structure to align with the transformation goals, or embed desired behavioral changes in core value statements”.
The same applies to organizations seeking to derive the true value of a DevOps culture. Getting the leadership to actively drive the cultural change required will yield tangible business benefit. Amongst those companies identified as Front Runners (or digital culture leaders) in the ‘Digital Culture’ report, 72% ensured that their leadership acted as role models in displaying openness to change and adopting new behaviors.
7 steps for building a DevOps culture
So, if DevOps is at its best when it is a culture, not simply automation, what steps should leaders take to make this happen? Here are my top tips:
1. Break down silos by merging and co-locating the deliver (Dev) and run (Ops) organizations
2. DevOps is enabled by automation, so build quality in through automation and support teams with the right tooling
3. Foster collaboration and feedback (especially from Ops back to Dev)
4. Deploy change agents in the organization
5. Re-design KPIs and employee rewards based on collaboration behaviors – across business units and with the wider ecosystem
6. Communicate, be open – this reduces handover periods and cuts unnecessary documentation
7. Establish trust and accountability, no blame. DevOps is a shared responsibility
My own experience as part of the Capgemini Enterprise iPaaS team has shown how effective all of this can be. Within our own platform provisioning and support, we promote a collaborative DevOps culture, which undoubtedly fosters greater quality. So, for example, development thinks about what support might need going forward and builds this into the solution.
There’s another important consequence of adopting DevOps as a broader culture. With the Capgemini Enterprise iPaaS leadership giving us the freedom to collaborate within this DevOps environment, we feel empowered, valued. We have the right people, doing what they do best. This aligns with another of the Digital Culture report findings, that 83 percent of the Front Runners focus on behavioral characteristics to recruit talent. In DevOps, these characteristics include the ability to work autonomously, yet at the same time as part of a collaborative team environment with a strong sense of sharing.
So, are you really ‘doing DevOps’?