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Building a DevOps Culture: Core Principles and Methodologies

Building a DevOps Culture: DevOps Principles and Methodologies

 

For many, the concept of DevOps and its operations are difficult to understand. Some say DevOps is only possible with cloud integration; that its methodologies are not suitable for outsourced mobile app development; that its processes don’t work with large, complex systems; and that it’s exclusively about communication. Yet, these fallacies prevent enterprises from adopting a holistic perspective of DevOps as a lucrative, business-driven software delivery system. 

 

Today, every enterprise needs to be agile enough to respond to fluctuating market and business climates, customer demands, competitive strains, and regulatory conditions with unerring digital solutions. In modern society, it’s not a matter of how quickly technology companies will overtake long-standing enterprises, but how those enterprises will rebuild business processes to become technology companies. Enterprise services, product offerings, and applications, in particular, are so elaborate and formed of various technologies, databases, and devices that DevOps is quickly becoming a requisite methodology for delivering business value to customers continuously and efficiently. 

 

This article is intended to help build a stronger understanding of DevOps, how it operates, and the business value of building a DevOps culture. 

What is DevOps? 

DevOps is an essential enterprise capability for the continuous delivery of software-driven innovation that enables organizations to seize market opportunities and reduce time to customer feedback.

 

DevOps emerged from a set of agile practices promoting collaboration and communication across development and operations teams. DevOps involves an end-to-end software delivery lifecycle and incorporates a broad range of stakeholders from business owners to a product’s end-user. Often, organizations that implement DevOps practices successfully introduce additional organizational practices and technologies like agile, design thinking, cloud operations, and user analytics. 

 

For enterprise organizations, the growing demand to improve operational metrics for software quality and cost, have been leading drivers for DevOps adoption. The need to release product innovations faster to maintain market relevance and keep pace with industry disruption requires tighter cooperation between business owners, development teams, and IT operations. Combined, these factors drive a need for enhanced collaboration, automation, and information transparency which is provided through DevOps implementation.

 

In simplest terms, DevOps is a modern approach to fast, predictable, high-quality software delivery emphasizing collaboration to meet the needs of both the business and the end-user. DevOps is used in IT to refer to roles or processes that bridge various departments – usually development and operations teams – to achieve a certain project management philosophy that involves more efficiency in communications between development teams and other parts of a greater business or organization. 

 

To summarize, DevOps improves the way business provides value to its customers by eliminating silos and using collaboration to create the conditions for: 

 

  • Faster code delivery
  • Quicker market entry
  • Higher-value, customer-centric software solutions
  • Accelerated resolution of defects and vulnerabilities 
  • Improved responsiveness to market fluctuations 

The principles of DevOps 

DevOps implementation can vary as departments across large enterprises have separate goals, processes, tools, and even distinct cultures. However, there are several inherent DevOps principles that repeatedly insist on collaborative relationships and shared learning between departments. These DevOps principles prioritize increasing work velocity for improved deployment rates, while simultaneously enhancing predictability, flexibility, scalability, and security of the production environment. To incorporate DevOps principles into enterprise processes, senior executives need to evangelize DevOps as a holistic, widespread business approach across all departments within an organization. Core DevOps principles should shape and guide company-wide objectives. These principles include: 

 

  • Implementing process improvement strategies to curtail feedback loops with emphasis on resolving software defects proactively and continuously 
  • Building a culture of experimentation where developers can fail fast in a penalty-free environment, learn from successes and failures, and recast minor mistakes as sources for future innovations 
  • Employing an organizational growth mindset where individuals freely exchange knowledge among colleagues 
  • Using automation tools to drive efficiencies 
  • Sharing continuous feedback with the entire organization 
  • Motivating development, quality assurance, deployment, and operations teams to collaborate on common organizational goals 

How does DevOps work? 

DevOps methodologies work to create an innovation culture where the entire organization can collaborate and respond to market fluctuations with agility. These DevOps methodologies include: 

Continuous integration

Continuous integration is where coding, building, integrating, and testing takes place. Much like the name implies, this is a form of quality control where small pieces of code are integrated on a continuous basis. Each integration is verified by an automated build to detect bugs and vulnerabilities as quickly as possible. 

Continuous delivery

Continuous delivery contains continuous integration, focusing on sprint releases. Continuous delivery is a formalized structure allowing for the rapid development and delivery of secure software. These methodologies keep production and testing environments close together which speeds deployment and quality assurance. 

Continuous deployment

Continuous deployment is concerned with automating project releases for improved work velocity. 

The business value of DevOps

DevOps offers the benefits modern enterprises need to survive, specifically, rapid innovation, time-to-market, and customer-centricity.

 

As customers continue to seek out direct digital links to the businesses they transact with, companies that adopt DevOps are in a better position to deliver a customer experience facilitated by technology. No enterprise today is untouched by the societal and economical shift towards digital business. Now more than ever, innovation, agility, and stable software delivery are vital to the profitability of any business. DevOps offers the benefits modern enterprises need to survive, specifically, rapid innovation, time-to-market, and customer-centricity. 

Rapid Innovation 

Successful enterprises adopt lean thinking techniques to increase the capacity to innovate, with the goal of reducing waste and rework to align resources with high-value initiatives. One way DevOps accomplishes rapid innovation is with smaller code portions. This aspect of DevOps extends back to product ownership. Concise user stories precipitate smaller code portions. Designing, building, and delivering code in smaller installments leads to an accelerated project velocity. 

 

Large enterprise applications necessitate expert coordination and dependency management, but if sprint releases can be coded and deployed in smaller pieces, iterative deliverables can be released to users and tested in the market faster. Not only does this reduce development waste, but this minimum viable product approach mitigates the risk of all-in-one deployments.  

 

Sometimes, practicing DevOps also requires enterprises to embrace additional processes that facilitate innovation; a key example being design thinking. Many development teams practice design thinking to deliver a high-quality user experience (UX). Design thinking supports innovation by observing and considering multiple solutions to a single problem. The core principle of design thinking asserts that a user-centric approach to product development encourages innovation, which leads to market differentiation and competitive advantage. Much of the success of design thinking hinges on rapid prototyping. The prototyping process defines the product by framing and reframing the problem to gain perspective and explore as many potential solutions as possible. Developing a prototype is an iterative activity where product teams continually review and refine the product concept returning to the beginning of the design thinking process several times until a desirable, feasible, and viable concept exists. 

Faster time-to-market 

Accelerating a product’s time-to-market explicitly relies on culture, process, and automation structure that allow for fast and stable software delivery. DevOps as a business capability offers the tools and creates the culture required to enable systematic release planning, predictability, and profitability. DevOps methodologies hinge on the concept of continuity as can be determined from its methodologies. As a strategy, DevOps focuses on people and collaboration across teams so individuals can focus on high-priority problems anywhere in the software development lifecycle without restriction. As a result, the DevOps process creates a faster time-to-market and faster time to customer feedback. 

Customer-centricity 

Producing a differentiated and rich customer experience directly correlates to customer loyalty and increased market share. It’s important to note that customer experience encompasses much more than how a customer feels about a product or service. It incorporates a strategic understanding of the product’s business model and processes. It also consists of understanding the broader context in which customers interact and engage. A successful customer experience creates solutions that meet the needs of the end-user and ultimately works within the bounds of the technological platforms. To deliver this kind of experience, enterprises need to continuously interpret and act on customer feedback. DevOps provides the methodologies to get quick feedback from customers and every other stakeholder in the project. 

Building a DevOps Culture 

The business value of a DevOps environment is clear, but how do enterprises unlock the value of DevOps methodologies? Cultural change can’t happen without support for top-level management, but starting DevOps implementation at an individual, team level is an advantageous way to explore how the process can benefit other areas within the enterprise. On a small scale, teams can demonstrate what DevOps can accomplish, identify bottlenecks, and breakthrough them while the issues are still compact enough to handle easily. Successful transformations are often incremental journeys rather than “big bang” implementations. 

 

To reiterate, DevOps is an essential enterprise capability. To actualize the business value of DevOps and capture emerging market opportunities, enterprises need to build a DevOps culture and create conditions for fast, predictable, and high-quality software development. 

 

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Annie Dossey

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