How to Complete a Successful and Sustainable DevOps Transformation

The Road to A Successful and Sustainable DevOps Transformation

DevOps, a full life cycle approach to delivery which is underpinned by collaboration, has rapidly emerged as the leading way to develop, deliver, and support applications, enabling businesses to move faster and keep up with customer demands in an ever-changing digital world. However, creating this agile, responsive and data driven environment, and then sustaining it, can create technological and bureaucratic complexity which can act as blockers to achieving sustainable DevOps transformation. 

To avoid as many obstacles and challenges as possible, it’s important to learn as much as possible about effective methodology and best practices for transitioning to DevOps frameworks. Therefore, this article explores what DevOps really means, how companies can benefit from effective DevOps integration, and easy to follow steps for a smooth DevOps transition.

What is DevOps?

DevOps isn’t a technology or a standard. It’s a philosophy or concept widely accepted by many different businesses. At its core, DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design and development through to production support. DevOps introduces agile development methods into software defined infrastructures and operations, whereby code is continuously defined, tested, deployed, monitored, and measured. The whole process is underpinned by speed and agility, as well as teams that embrace incremental improvements and fast failure. It enables and supports effective and continuous improvement, integration, and delivery, which allows businesses to move quickly and improve value.

Benefits of DevOps

Transitioning to DevOps can be really beneficial to businesses in the following ways:

  • Improved operational support and more stable operating environments
  • Faster resolution of problems
  • Faster delivery of features
  • Automation to improve process efficiency 
  • Increased team flexibility and agility
  • Improved collaboration leading to more engagement, creativity, and faster problem solving

New Relic estimates that working in DevOps results in 208x more frequent code deployments, 106x faster lead time from commit to deploy, 2604x faster to recover from incidents and 7x lower change failure rate. 

There’s no wonder DevOps is the way businesses are going. But where do you start on your DevOps journey?

Where to start with a DevOps Transformation

Choosing DevOps can be a great decision for businesses, but the most common cause of failure is poor planning and organisation around the implementation. Whilst businesses may prioritise different aspects, the three key areas that all considerations fall into are: Assessment & Culture, Measurement, and Governance & Scaling.

Assessment and Culture

You must assess the current state of the business to make an informed decision about whether DevOps is viable and beneficial to the business. To determine this, you need to ask “is there a demand for speed and velocity from IT?” 
In addition to identifying the need for DevOps in the business you need to assess the current culture and any changes to that culture required for DevOps to work. This is important because if you don’t have a DevOps culture to support the DevOps adoption, all automation and implementation efforts will fail. 

A DevOps culture means all teams are aligned around shared goals and objectives. It also requires a space that is psychologically safe and therefore enables teams to embrace failure whilst being comfortable accepting accountability and responsibility for errors. Creating an environment where it is safe to fail, learn, and fix, is fundamental to DevOps as it allows for continuous improvement and delivery. This requires a high level of trust.

You also need to create a clear strategy and a robust roadmap which identifies key objectives and results. 

Then you should create and communicate the vision for your DevOps environment. This vision should be broad enough to cover all aspects of DevOps but narrow enough to guide decisions in the subsequent change process. To start getting people on-side it’s important to communicate the vision repeatedly and consistently. A strong message means you are more likely to empower employees to act on the vision, as they feel a sense of passion and purpose.

Measurement and Business Performance

Change is a constant factor in any agile environment and implementing DevOps into businesses adds even more uncertainty. This means it can be difficult to measure success and therefore determine if DevOps is the right decision for your business. This is why it is important to collaboratively select Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are tailored to your specific needs and requirements. There are many KPIs that a business can select, and to help you decide what is best for your business, I have collated some examples below, segregated into Business Success, Customer Satisfaction, Application Performance, and Quality metrics.

Using these pre-defined KPIs you can create short term wins which helps you to deliver visible performance improvements and will help to encourage wider adoption of the DevOps culture and processes. Essentially these wins ensure that the DevOps benefits are obvious to the business and its stakeholders.

Governance & Scaling

To maintain a working DevOps environment, it’s important to continuously monitor progress by enabling consistent collaboration and communication. Having simple weekly meetings or daily stand ups to discuss priorities, agendas, KPIs, results, or obstacles means that decisions can be made quickly and then actioned accordingly, contributing to the dynamic and agile nature of DevOps. 

In addition to this, teams should frequently institutionalise new approaches by communicating connections between new behaviours and success by utilising KPIS. At this stage you need to scale DevOps across the full business, so that the change becomes “business as usual”. For this scaling to be successful, you must already have the culture, KPIs and vision firmly in place, so that everybody’s processes and priorities are aligned to the business goals.

Conclusion: The Journey is Key

Wanting to implement DevOps is easy. But planning, strategizing, implementing, and then maintaining a DevOps culture and environment can be more challenging. It takes times, commitment, and organisation. Without the necessary processes and culture in place, it’s impossible to transition to an effective and efficient DevOps environment. 

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