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Laying the foundations for DevOps

It can accelerate the pace and rate of transformation across large organisations

Gulf News

As the use of third-party solution providers continues to grow, the pressure is mounting on internal IT departments to prove they still have a valuable contribution to make in terms of enabling the enterprise’s core business goals.

This pressure to remain relevant at a time when enterprises are increasingly embarking on their digital transformation journeys is creating inevitable conflict between IT operations and application development teams.

Much of this conflict stems from the rising number of agile implementations that IT teams are employing in an attempt to reduce the delivery time of software applications.

Often, the challenge that the IT department is looking to solve has evolved before the deployment is even complete, which causes a disconnect and friction between the business and IT’s value.

As such, speed is the new, required competitive advantage, and enabling speed — together with agility and quality — must be one of IT’s fundamental goals.

Indeed, the pace and rate of change for product and application requirements has increased so much over the years that IT’s pace must also accelerate or it runs the risk of not delivering anything.

Historically, CIOs have attempted to deliver the speed and agility required of them through IT services while taking into account the rapidly changing business environment.

However, this has often led to failures because of rigid legacy workflow principles, competing internal objectives, and complicated process and change management requirements.

During the past five years, a new philosophy has arisen in a bid to help IT leaders deliver the speed, agility, and quality that their businesses demand.

This philosophy is DevOps, and it can best be defined as set of practices that unifies a team comprising business leadership, development, testing, deployment, and operations to be responsible for the creation and delivery of business capabilities.

But it’s not just a matter of clicking your fingers and declaring that DevOps is now the solution to all your troubles. Indeed, it is imperative that executives first understand the need to lay a foundation for enabling DevOps success.

Planning and laying a foundation for DevOps success can help increase success rates by 90 per cent and, more importantly, accelerate the pace and rate of transformation across large organisations.

The key is adopting a DevOps philosophy that enables a focus on speed and quality, achieving both while instilling a new set of cultural traits across the organisation.

Leadership teams can drive this change through change management practices and by taking an evolutionary, organic adoption approach to DevOps from three core vantage points: leadership, development, and operations.

At its core, DevOps enables a closer working relationship between development and operations teams, utilising automation as a key thread across most discussions.

Developers become responsible for ensuring that their code works well and can be managed and that feedback mechanisms exist between customers and the software development life cycle.

Identifying the key traits is critical to the success of any DevOps project as these traits dictate changes from the traditional development and operational models that IT is accustomed too.

An important consideration is the impact on existing tool infrastructure. Because of the required collaboration, teamwork, and transparency required for DevOps, legacy tools often don’t provide the necessary integrations, visibility, or dashboards.

Workflow streamlining and the automation of build, release, deployment, and management processes drive the need for greater visibility, with better embedded controls and the ability to both ingest customer feedback and use it to improve the service or product in question.

Customer expectations have changed, and they increasingly demand a high-touch experience. As new features and service become available, the need for instant interaction and iteration must be built into the development and operational cycles. And it is here that DevOps comes into its own.

The key foundation areas for making this work are: DevOps traits, project readiness, team building, risk assessment, and metrics and dashboards.

Indeed, executives must have a deep understanding of the critical DevOps traits that are required for the relevant leadership, development, and IT operations teams, and then carefully select only the projects that fit best for applying a DevOps philosophy and that will deliver the most initial value.

They must also develop a clear understanding of how to build a DevOps team and how to incentivise this team to succeed, all the while assessing the DevOps risk profile to determine potential challenges and failure points.

And, finally, they must plan to invest in dashboards, and determine the right business and technical metrics to monitor. Only when these five foundations are in place can DevOps begin to drive the speed, agility, and quality that the digital era demands.

The columnist is group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC). He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC. Content for this week’s feature leverages global, regional, and local research studies undertaken by IDC.