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How DevOps Enables Successful Business Transformation

By Steve Norton | DevOps Practice Director

INSIGHTS // Articles

15 Oct 2019

#DevOps|#ProcessOptimisation|#Transformation

INSIGHTS // Articles

#DevOps|#ProcessOptimisation|#Transformation

By Steve Norton

15 Oct 2019

As digital transformation initiatives are planned and the journey started, the complexities of harmonising new tools, organising delivery teams and value streams, new ways of working and adoption of lean processes become reality. DevOps concepts and practices, supported by sound quality engineering methodologies, enable business and IT to better plan, manage and harmonise these complexities for successful outcomes.

There have been numerous success stories where DevOps practices were used to improve speed, quality, and reliability of software product delivery. Leaving out the giant technology unicorns, success stories include organisations such as Target, Etsy, Nordstrom, Capital One, and traditional organisations such as Barclays Bank, as well as market disruptors like AirBnb and Netflix.

Each continues to pursue continuous improvement through activities including organisational learning, experimentation, hackathons, chaos testing, and close-to-customer monitoring and feedback loops. Therefore, a DevOps journey does not end - it is a business as usual practice and a key enabler for successful transformation.

Image: Woman standing in front of a user stories board. Title: How DevOps Enables Successful Business Transformation

Business transformation demands changes to the way business and IT operate. These changes require a mindset focused on product quality and customer value, perhaps best summarised in what is now a 20+ year old quote from Steve Jobs: “You have got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around” (WWD Conference, May 1997).

So how does DevOps fit into the business digital transformation model? And how can DevOps practices be employed to help customers?

DevOps as an Enabler for Business Transformation

At their core, DevOps practices support a quality-driven, customer-centric approach that enables successful transformation. Effective Agile, quality engineering, automation, and lean process disciplines are also required for the DevOps practice to better align development, operations, stakeholders and the business to build and deliver high quality, operationally reliable and secure software, faster.

To attempt a DevOps journey without these disciplines will impede transformation progress. With these disciplines, continuous workflow, continuous integration (CI), continuous testing (CT), continuous delivery (CD) through automation, and continuous improvement are realisablemeasurable outcomes.

However, business and IT challenges and business priorities often dictate how ‘continuous’ product delivery can actually become (quality, speed and reliability), and how quickly. Priorities will vary, so the starting point of a DevOps journey may be different in each organisation.

There is no one-size fits all DevOps approach but there are strongly recommended practices. Every DevOps journey should start small, evolve, learn, improve and scale from a solid foundation:

  • Lean processes enable continuous downstream workflow and feedback, minimising wait time between lifecycle ‘work centres’. Clarifying types of work – business initiatives, infrastructure, change and unplanned – and providing visibility across teams, stakeholders and operations is crucial to achieving continuous delivery.

  • Automation drives repeatability and speed at scale, with tools that support and manage parallel development streams, optimise developer workflows, and encourage early performance and security testing, all without constraining developer creativity and speed.

  • Integrated DevOps toolchains provide seamless automation for product flow through the lifecycle, while ensuring upstream traceability and visibility as new features progress.

  • Sound Quality Engineering practices minimise business risk when building new products and features. Activities should minimally include risk-based planning against quality and customer needs, an aligned test strategy and plans against requirements, strong release governance, sound quality gates and regulatory compliance. These practices build quality in and measure the cost, effort and value of quality to enable continuous improvement, which reduce rework and the future cost of quality while accelerating time-to-market.

  • Value-based Agile methods require planning and delivering software in prioritised smaller, sustainable batches of work - activities that must include operations from the outset

  • Real-time quality metrics through lifecycle dashboards provide much needed visibility for teams and stakeholders as the product moves downstream, and critically provide a source to measure the cost of quality. After all, if it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved.

Simply put, automation underpins how to achieve desired speed to market (with quality and reliability), and DevOps toolchains and processes support continuous integration, testing and delivery.

However, continuous testing in the context of DevOps must be emphasised. It is too easy to squeeze a testing window when upstream feature development is impacted, yet business demands for on-time delivery remain.

In these common scenarios, even with automation, testing can start too late in the lifecycle, meaning product quality and operational reliability is sacrificed. A potential outcome is a degraded customer experience, and eventual remediation.

Therefore, DevOps and good quality engineering practices provide the necessary framework for continuous testing in an automated CI/CT/CD toolchain.

Conclusion

The cultural shift to a mindset of collective quality and customer-centricity may be the hardest part of any DevOps journey. An Agile and quality engineering framework is important for stakeholders and IT teams to harmonise their ways of working and approach to quality and timely product delivery.

Absence of a comprehensive transformation strategy and plan will lead to failure if change is not uniformly applied. Without a roadmap, the journey will become fragmented, some value streams may generate an initial level of success while others may not, and the seamless integration of ‘Op(eration)s’ into DevOps will remain elusive.

Duplication of effort, tools fragmentation, higher delivery cost, new technical debt, unknown change in product quality, and lack of monitoring and feedback loops that drive improvements, are well recorded industry examples of less than successful transformation events.

That’s why, regardless of the starting point, a roadmap is needed to achieve – and sustain – higher business value and ROI, speed, quality and operational reliability. Start small, experiment, learn, publicise success, evolve, improve and scale from a solid foundation.

From a high-level overview of the landscape to an in-depth capability assessment, our teams help get you on the right path or adjust a misaligned one, quickly and effectively.

Our DevOps practice is designed to help rationalise, prioritise and visualise transformation through an outcome-based, measurable roadmap based on known challenges, priorities and business targets. We can help with roadmaps, quality frameworks, DevOps toolchain assessments, and POCs, all the way to implementation and lean continuous workflow, helping realise a high performing DevOps organisation where continuous integration, testing and delivery, through to continuous improvement, are business as usual activities.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you to successfully navigate your transformation journey.

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