DevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is

ecs-admin 1st March 2016

Over the past few years, DevOps has been steadily gaining traction in enterprise IT for the benefit it provides in driving business forward at a faster pace. The results speak for themselves – from ‘unicorn’ companies like Etsy and Netflix, who seem to be able to achieve the impossible through DevOps, down to start-ups and Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are realising its potential as a way to eclipse their competition.

But as the hype around DevOps continues to grow unabated, many companies fall into the trap of ‘doing DevOps’ at the expense of actually implementing value-adding DevOps practices. In this blog, we’ll look at why effective DevOps adoption depends on understanding what DevOps isn’t,as well as what it is.

“Doing DevOps” isn’t the same thing as adopting DevOps practices.

In an article on DevOps.com, David Geer sums the ‘doing DevOps’ paradox as follows: “No one should be doing DevOps. It’s not an action, it’s not a title, it’s a blanket term for approaches that bridge the gap between traditional operations and development groups.” The first, and most important thing to understand about DevOps is that it isn’t, as Geer says, a title or an action. It is the combination of people, processes and tools, assembled in accordance to guiding principles and best practices that results in a more efficient delivery of better quality software. Many organisations make the principal mistake of creating a ‘DevOps team’ without considering what this truly entails. Creating a specialised DevOps team is counter-intuitive – DevOps makes organisations more efficient by breaking down the barriers that traditionally exist between dev and ops teams, and creating another silo within your organisation will only work against what you’re trying to achieve.

Automation isn’t all there is to DevOps, but it’s an important aspect.

One of the most common misconceptions about DevOps is that it’s just another word for automation. I’ve already discussed why DevOps is more than just automation in some detail in an earlier blog post, but the point is worth reiterating here. Automation constitutes a vital component of DevOps, but automating a few processes doesn’t mean you’ve achieved anything. What you have created are islands of automation where systems are loosely connected often causing further silos of expertise within the ecosystem. Automating the right processes is key to creating value for your business, and this depends on having the necessary insight into the way your business works. As Alan Sharp-Paul says in his blog on UpGuard, “A common misconception for Enterprises commencing their automation journey is that the key preparation work is choosing a tool and training their staff up. These are necessary evils, sure, but the real work is actually gathering requirements. With legacy infrastructure in play, what matters most is getting visibility of current state.

Without visibility into the current state of your business and target objectives, automating processes is akin to drawing names from a hat, at best. In other words, don’t automate what you don’t understand.

Adopting DevOps doesn’t mean downsizing or shedding staff.

DevOps doesn’t mean throwing out all your developers and operations staff and replacing them with an all-star ‘DevOps team’ that can accomplish anything in no time at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – DevOps is about empowering your existing staff to achieve more by working more closely together and automating the vital links between traditionally disparate departments. Creating a specialised DevOps team might seem like a great way to fast-track your organisation, but this is counter-intuitive to the benefits that DevOps provides. Ultimately, adoption of DevOps allows you to get more value from your existing workforce, not replace it with another, smaller unit.

DevOps is notoriously hard to define, and it can be even more difficult to adopt without a clear understanding of where you should be heading. ECS Digital has over 12 years’ experience helping organisations in many industries around the world realise the value of DevOps done right providing a independent and agnostic approach to what works best for your organisation. If you’d like to know more about how we could help this become a reality for your organisation, please contact us for a DevOps maturity assessment.

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