DevOps 101: The Gateway Blog

Written by Beyond20 Staff

Development and Operations. They’re like burgers and fries. Or fish and chips. Or anything that goes with fries, really.

What we’re trying to say is that Development and Operations, which are each great on their own, make a truly amazing team when you bring them together. An ever-increasing number of organizations are realizing that fact, taking DevOps from underground status to the mainstream (if you consider companies like Target, Nordstrom, and Lego mainstream).

In fact, approximately 20 percent of global organizations have adopted DevOps as a strategy, and for good reason. Well, several good reasons. For one, DevOps results in higher quality products and services. It can significantly shorten cycle times for products to reach the market, as well as the feedback loops that enable performance and revenue-enhancing improvements. It cuts product development costs over time, not to mention burnout levels, all while increasing performance levels. It’ll also do your laundry (okay, that’s not entirely true, but we wanted to make sure you’re paying attention).

In short, DevOps enables a lot of good things that build a culture of learning and continuous improvement. And that means a bigger, better, stronger organization. But achieving that bigger, better, stronger organization takes time. Think of it the way you would think of going to the gym – if you want to see results, you have to put in some effort and see it through. In other words: no pain, no gain. Otherwise, you wind up drawing six-pack abs on yourself with a marker and we do not recommend taking such short cuts (let’s just say the marker industry uses the term “washable” prettly loosely in our experience).

We don’t mean to make bringing Development and Operations together sound impossible, or put you off by talking about stick-to-it-iveness. Like any personal coach, we want to encourage you to do this, do it well, and get those results. Because when you break down the silos that keep Development and Operations apart, each gains valuable insights about the other and how it functions. That understanding not only eliminates bottlenecks, it helps reduce hair pulling, teeth gnashing and the ever-popular banging of heads against desks out of frustration.

So let’s talk about how you get to a lean, mean DevOps team that is capable of all kinds of ass kicking and name taking (metaphorically speaking, we can’t stress that enough). Much like setting your goals at the gym, you have to determine what you want to get out of DevOps, and what it means to you. In other words, you need to define DevOps for yourself.

That in and of itself isn’t easy, as a quick search for ‘DevOps definition’ will reveal. Everyone has a take on it. Probably even someone you know, like your dentist. This can be intimidating, but it’s actually a plus because, with no widely accepted definition, you can develop a DevOps philosophy that truly suits you.

Note that we said ‘philosophy,’ not methodology. DevOps, still being relatively young, has a lot of maturing to do before it can be thought of or approached the way we do Project Management or Agile. With no best practices or body of knowledge to follow, it’s bound to get awkward here and there, just like adolescence. Except it isn’t nearly as long, or embarrassing, as adolescence, and the freedom to define what DevOps means for you goes a long way toward mitigating those growing pain in terms of what you can achieve.

Part of this definition process is finding the right itch and scratching it (unless it is a real itch, in which case, see your doctor). What is that one challenge that is vexing you that you see DevOps resolving? From that, you can set a project and then start building a dream team that racks up points. But to continue that sports analogy, you can’t just throw together a bunch of star talent, sit back and expect big wins. There’s got to be some strategy, some careful selection of team members, a few introductions, established expectations and goals. More than that, you have to give DevOps time to learn how to play well together, because this collaboration will fundamentally change the way they work. And you’ll want to ensure they have access to the resources and budget necessary to make things happen, although numbered jerseys with their names on them might be going a little too far.

With the team and the pilot project in place, it’s time to think resource capacity and deadlines, which are key to success. Look at how long it takes you to do what you do and then factor in the necessary time and resources for DevOps to do what it needs to do to make what you do more efficient (and that’s no doo-doo). You may think that increased efficiency means more time for more projects, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to speed delivery to drive more value to your clients. That means using the efficiencies you gain in one application to achieve efficiencies in another. Because adding more projects means more burnout, which means recruiting new team members, which means so much for efficiency (and this is why we suggested jerseys would be a bad idea).

Speaking of recruiting, when you assemble your DevOps team, you want to hire the right people. That may sound obvious – has anyone ever succeeded hiring the wrong people? – but in this case we mean Development professionals who think like Operations folks, and vice versa (they don’t have to dress or act alike; in fact, it might be weird if they do). This could prove challenging, because these are the star talent everyone is looking to recruit for their teams, so you may have to invest a little more to land them. But that investment will pay for itself by eliminating inefficiencies, missed deadlines and projects bouncing back and forth in an endless loop between the silos (or in some cases, lobbed back and forth like grenades).

Remember, in assembling your killer DevOps team, you want to take a grassroots approach. Instead of imposing a structure from the top down, bring Development and Operations together, let them get acquainted and take on a pilot project or two so they can find a rhythm that works for them. You’ll need management buy in to commit the resources to make it happen, but as they work together and notch some early wins, you’ll start to see the true value that DevOps can generate. And that will put your organization in a league of its own.

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Originally published April 04 2018, updated January 01 2019