DevOps-"Involve me and I learn"

Christopher Lundy, Global Enterprise Architect, Columbia Sportswear Company
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Christopher Lundy, Global Enterprise Architect, Columbia Sportswear Company

Christopher Lundy, Global Enterprise Architect, Columbia Sportswear Company

What are some challenges and trends facing DevOps?

Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Who would have thought that Benjamin Franklin would be talking about DevOps. DevOps has been a trending practice in organizations across the globe for the last several years and is found in publications, conferences, meetups and strategic roadmaps but, DevOps is not a practice. DevOps is a strategic program that transforms organizations for the good or the bad depending on how they apply Mr. Franklin’s understanding of learning.

DevOps challenges executives to involve all aspects of the organization to be successful.

DevOps is not an IT centric activity

Why is this the case?

Because, the processes that need to be implemented in DevOps need to influence and shape the way a company develops their products, or markets to their consumers or delivers an advantage overtheir competitors. DevOps is about business capabilities that are borne out by designing and delivering functional business processes whether in IT or in a global business development team.

  DevOps as an organization-wide, global program, cannot be successful without Enterprise Architecture and InfoSec  

This is where organizations find the challenge. Sometimes, the DevOps program struggles or is less effective because it is taught as a practice, a way of delivering IT and the supporting services of IT to the business but, in reality, DevOps is about learning how to involve the various aspects of the organization to participate in making their processes more efficient and delivering quality throughout the stratum of business. Yes, DevOps is about using involvement and learning to advance the organization to something greater than it is today.

While listening to podcasts, webinars, conference talks and research groups, it is apparent that in many companies, DevOps is trending as a “tell me” approach. There are some specialists in the background that practice some aspects of DevOps but that is as far as it goes. This is usually the case in organizations where executives may read about the value of DevOps but don’t have the tenacity or desire to involve the rest of the organization to make it successful or don’t want to disrupt strongly entrenched development teams.

There are other organizations that are willing to use the “teach me” approach to teach key members of the IT organization the standards, principles, and practices of DevOps and even go so far as implementing some pipelines and establishing a Center of Excellence to help shape their future. However, in many cases, these last in a state of delivering minimal value, never really delivering operational efficiencies across the organization or delivering a common approach to the bridge between Development and Operations. While the “teach me” approach is effective in some targeted areas, it really never extends beyond IT or the community it is influencing. It definitely does not go global.

Finally, another approach that is being used is the “involve me” approach. This involves teaching the importance of using business capabilities to drive operational efficiencies and then extending those processes to include quality measurements, zero downtime and a consistent and deliberate approach to adding value to the organization. There are executives who really want to add value to their business whether as C-level executives delivering change, the vice presidents that own the business domain and look for opportunities to grow their products or brands or the business leaders, including IT who look for efficiencies in operations and a tight focus on the delivery of services across the organization.

These types of organizations start with understanding that the delivery of business capabilities comes from a drive to design value in products, applications, or team makeup. As they build their capabilities and “bake” in quality metrics and processes, they recognize that using predictable delivery mechanisms, like Feature Driven Design, delivery pipelines, automated testing and idempotent solutions, helps them achieve their goals. At the same time, they also recognize the need to up-skill their business analysts who, in many cases, are not ready for an Agile or DevOps program. They recognize that skills like Agile with Scrum, SMART thinking, SOLID development patterns and Feature Driven Design are all needed to really add value to the DevOps program.

While the trends point to more organizations adopting DevOps, the trends also point to a lack of engagement and involvement across the organization. DevOps should be a C-level initiative that is driven by a strong desire to increase revenues while removing constraints and delivering value from any team. This is accomplished by understanding how a particular business domain adds value, how they measure their success and then tapping the DevOps program into the product development life cycle.

Is this easy?

Not at all.

It requires ‘telling’, then ‘teaching’, then ‘involving’ the areas of the business that are supported. In GIS, it usually involves setting up programs with each area of the business and using analysts to perform process engineering improvements, value stream mapping and business capability development exercises. Once the business processes are understood, then DevOps can be used, like a tool, to drive greater efficiencies by delivering code or test results in an automated way. Or it can increase the efficiency of a supply chain process by writing features and scenarios that explore different capabilities and simulate their results. DevOps can be used minimally or extensively depending on the value it adds.

Finally, DevOps as an organization-wide, global program, cannot be successful without Enterprise Architecture and InfoSec. One can say that Enterprise Architecture is the link between the capabilities that the business enables, and the DevOps processes that the services team delivers. This also indicates that the role of Enterprise Architecture evolves to really drive the strategy of when and how to use the DevOps program, whether regionally or globally. At the same time, key components of DevOps center on Security, whether driving efficiencies through access controls or changing the nature of consumer interaction through automated compliance checks or code quality injection through a pipeline.

Conclusion

The way we view DevOps, as a job, a practice or a program, will determine how successful we are with adding value. C-Level executives latch onto emerging ideas and want their organizations to be successful. The best way to do this is “tell” yourself, “I’m going to setup a “learning” organization and will “involve” my business partners so I can make DevSecOps not only a reality but, also an integral part of the makeup of my organization”. Involve others and they will learn how to use DevOps to add value.

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