DevOps Episode VII: The Collaboration Force Awakens

Not so long ago, in an IT department not so far, far away…

It was a period of intense IT civil war. Rebel developers striking from their agile bases had won their first victory against the dictatorial IT operations empire.

During the battle, developers gained control over cool new technologies that allowed them to deliver a continuous flow of application to the business. Using nimble, cloud-based tools and agile methods, our intrepid coders finally break free from the shackles of operational tyranny.

But amidst the turmoil, imperial operations forces had developed not one, but two ultimate weapons—each with enough power to stem the tide and smash the digital dreams of the rebel forces.

Firstly, a change management death star they could wield to prevent any new apps upsetting the stability of production systems—requiring each development sortie to go before a rigorous imperial change review board. Secondly, a heavily armored “standardization” battle cruiser to ensure any engagements were fought on their terms.

This slowed down the development rebels and teams couldn’t use their fast, nimble weapons of choice.

But a new hope emerged—DevOps. A method so powerful it would apply order to the chaos, giving business the freedom to pursue and achieve their digital transformation goals.

Lightsabers at the Ready

That’s a long opening crawl and a shameless plug for the Star Wars reboot, but it does describe the conflict existing within IT departments. Of course, the blame does not lie on IT operations. It could quite easily have been a different scenario—with operations being the last stability bastion, holding back tyrannical and Vader-like developers who never give a hoot about resilience and supportability—the evil-coding empire.

Whatever the perspective, it does illustrate the technical face-off confronting many organizations today. In one corner of our galactic IT galaxy, operations Jedi have the burden of maintaining stability over a complex mix of systems infrastructure, so there’s no surprise that risk avoidance is the weapon of choice. While in the other nebula, rebel developers armed with a raft of cloud-based automation now have the means (if we let them) to bypass the operations forces completely.

To bring balance and revert IT to its natural order, our cross-functional teams must hang up their lightsabers and embrace DevOps.
— Peter Waterhouse, Senior Strategist, CA Technologies

Never Succumb to the Dark Side

It could be argued that stability over throughput is an acceptable and necessary trade-off if the limitations we impose through process and standardization actually increase operational performance—leading to better business outcomes. But don’t be fooled by rigid sith process lords. Evidence suggests that speed and quality are not mutually exclusive—as highlighted in a recent Freeform Dynamics report produced in association with CA Technologies.

Here, the data shows that by using a DevOps approach, 63 percent of the advanced adopters (201 respondents of the 1,442 total surveyed) were able to help the business act swiftly on digital opportunities and 61 percent were able to attack and defend more quickly—and 77 percent improved customer retention while 72 percent indicated improvements in achieving customer acquisition goals (see charts below). This clearly indicates that organizations can move fast without sacrificing a high-quality experience—absolutely crucial in today’s software-driven economy for winning and keeping customers.

DevOps—Bringing Balance to the Force

This might sound like a load of Jedi philosophy, but maintaining balance means eliminating anything that prevents IT from operating in its true natural state—a state of driving continuous business innovation from the rapid introduction of high-quality software.

As suggested, corruptible forces in the shape of operational rigidity and standardization can counter these goals and should be scrutinized—but it doesn’t end there. In project and development phases, demands for more speeds and feeds (along with most of the funding) often result in application designs optimized for faster delivery, but at the expense of everything else. The result? There are more systems that are harder to maintain and support, which only increases the cost pressure on IT operations. Of course, this only gets worse when developers are incentivized on throughput and are never held accountable for the overall disorder.

To bring balance and revert IT to its natural order, our cross-functional teams must hang up their lightsabers and embrace DevOps. For operations, this means stepping out from behind the production curtain to help development bake quality into applications—especially as they’re being developed, tested and deployed. For development, this means putting ego aside and accepting that because resilience, maintainability, scalability and security are not always top-of-mind, you’ll need help incorporating these elements. It also means everyone placing themselves in the shoes of the customer, building applications that are easier to support.

Been Successful, I Have … Yesssss

Of course, it’ll take more than mutual back-slapping and collaboration high-fives to drive DevOps success. We also need our management Yodas—those with the courage and tenacity to drive tough cultural change initiatives. There is a big need for these Yodas—folks who can align an organization around shared goals, getting everyone from business analysts to operations engineers to fall in love with business problems, and then work collectively to solve them.

Like Yoda (though perhaps not as unique-looking), these masters will ensure that the generative culture and continuous improvement so closely associated with DevOps always remains firmly in sight and can never be corrupted.

Now dig out and dust off that old plastic lightsaber—and make sure it’s a DevOps green one.

Peter Waterhouse
By Peter Waterhouse | May 25, 2017