By Ajay Kaul
Today, most organizations rely heavily on IT operations, whether they realize it or not. Arguably comparable to the body’s respiratory system, IT is necessary for survival but given scant attention on a day-to-day basis. Development, on the other hand, is also an important aspect of a business’s ability to thrive, particularly when it results in new technology that provides valuable products and services to customers and a high ROI for the organization.
If IT operations represent the respiratory system, then consider development the fresh air that continually attempts to breathe new life into its old methodologies. At best, when the two work together, outdated and obsolete systems transform into groundbreaking and innovative new applications (apps); at worst, they reach a choking point—when too much fresh air is forced into the lungs—causing promising new systems to collapse and potential profits to evaporate.
According to Gene Kim, researcher, entrepreneur, and co-author of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, global IT spending in 2010 was approximately $10 trillion. Of the new IT projects enterprises attempted to develop, a whopping 70 percent failed. “Nearly 50 percent of IT work is unplanned work or rework,” says Kim. “If we conservatively estimate that 20 percent of IT work is wasted, that’s $2 trillion of value each year that we’re letting slip through our fingers.”
It’s no secret that development and operations don’t always see eye to eye. After all, these two vital departments have been encouraged to remain separated and compartmentalized, rarely meeting face to face. Because of this great divide, enterprises tend to fall short in achieving goals. To increase speed of product-to-market delivery while maintaining stability and agility, organizations realize the need for an intermediary to bridge this gap, along with heart and soul from inspired leadership.
A Culture Phenomenon
In today’s market, businesses are obliged to deliver new apps—from reliable and stable information storage systems to systems of customer engagement—that are easy to use, high performing, and able to rapidly adjust to address ever-changing customer demands. With significant changes in the types of apps employed and the potential billions of dollars at stake, many traditional technology companies and an increasing number of start-ups are considering the enormous benefits of DevOps—the deliberate collaboration between disparate, yet equally important departments working together to achieve cost-effective and streamlined approaches to developing and delivering software that takes advantage of market opportunities quickly, while reducing time to customer feedback.
Challenging traditional stability-focused development methodology, DevOps attempts to bring forth new apps faster, without compromising on performance, and is employed by enterprises seeking to create innovative apps and services that address a myriad of business challenges, both internal and external. Success of new software solutions and systems not only depends on development and delivery—critical areas where organizations often fall short due to lack of collaboration and sharing—but also strong leadership from CIOs who must recognize that at its core, DevOps is more of a culture phenomenon than a technology.
When CIOs take the lead in adopting DevOps as a business capability, they not only provide the necessary tools for facilitating efficient planning, predictability, release, and success of new systems, but also the appropriate environment. A survey conducted by 451 Research of 200 qualified DevOps practitioners uncovered that business and technology are more closely aligned than ever before, as they are both impacting the demand to reduce release cycles.
Isolated roles, skills, and responsibilities mean that little feedback is available to improve a product. Leaders must break down these silos for proper DevOps deployment—meaning shorter cycles and greater feedback.
Successful CIOs understand that DevOps is about people, processes, tools, and technology and involves working simultaneously on multiple heterogeneous platforms. Based on automation and motivated by technology trends, such as cloud computing, mobile apps, and social media, CIOs can build DevOps competency within the organization by intimately connecting fragmented departments and selecting appropriate tools for primary operations, such as automated testing, build-release integration, configuration, network and server-performance monitoring, and deployment.
It’s a Leadership Thing
Effectively communicating the common objectives between departments that are often isolated and disjointed requires strong leadership from CIOs who must clearly convey the primary goal of the enterprise in accelerating the time-to-market and delivering high-quality products, while at the same time thoughtfully considering how to encourage people who have historically worked in steady, stable environments to embrace change and adapt. In other words, CIOs must guide them to the unknown, where taking risks and learning from success and failure become the new normal.
CIOs who give consideration to how business situations enforce the changes in IT systems, rather than focusing on how IT can change the world, have greater potential for success as they move toward transformation. Strategy and planning is critical, whether for a small start-up or a large-scale enterprise. DevOps gain real benefits only if implemented correctly, but the key is getting started by first, defining a definite project or area, followed by assembling a team of specialists who can spread the DevOps gospel within the organization.
Taking the lead in building a cohesive culture of collaboration also requires CIOs to expand their capabilities by promoting the shift in culture, from departmental silos to cross-functional and collaborating teams; addressing the gap between skills and workforce availability; recruiting new talent; hiring experts and/or providing training resources for new technologies; removing any self-imposed or external barriers to cooperation; developing a detailed blueprint; programming languages relevant to DevOps; negotiating with higher management to invest in tools and technologies enabling transformation from traditional IT technologies to DevOps; empowering teams to promote adoption of DevOps to their projects; planning complete service delivery and app of DevOps to agile methodology; and creating DevOps champions throughout the organization.
Fostering Lean Thinking and Achieving the Impossible
CIOs that are resolute in implementing the principles of DevOps methodologies ultimately foster lean thinking and allow for focus on higher value activities that translate to enhanced customer experience, which invariably builds customer loyalty and increases market share. Think Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter. Properly employing DevOps principles has enabled these organizations to accomplish what seemed impossible a mere five years ago—to deliver stable, reliable, and secure products and services while deploying numerous codes every day.
DevOps is one of those new technology terms used prolifically within the software industry yet misunderstood in regard to the inherent value it holds for enterprises. Driven by business and requiring participation among a wide range of segments—from app life-cycle development to management, stakeholders, and suppliers—DevOps has the potential to enhance the entire process of product development and delivery, with peripheral benefits including improved communication among peers and the establishment of a more cohesive learning environment within the organization.
Leading the DevOps transition, today’s CIO must be fearless, open to change, and able to balance and regulate the speed at which the fresh air of new ideas breathes new life into old methodologies. When CIOs encourage shared responsibility for developing and delivering new capabilities quickly and safely, the rewards extend far beyond market share and profit margins.
Individual parts of an enterprise cannot define the heart and soul of software development and delivery. It is the sum total of inspired leadership and a culture of collaboration that supports and encourages an entire organization to take risks in the spirit of advancing technology and enhancing the human experience. SW
Ajay Kaul is managing partner at AgreeYa Solutions, a global provider of software and business services focused on deploying technology-enabled solutions that create next-generation competitive advantages for customers. He brings over 25 years of experience in sales, staffing, and IT project management for clients throughout the world. As managing partner, Kaul has the company to success in highly competitive and complex markets while driving profitable growth. Prior to founding AgreeYa, Kaul was responsible for managing engagements for Deloitte Consulting, serving private and public sector clients.
Dec2014, Software Magazine