Why a DevOps culture is important to ECS Digital

ecs-admin 6th November 2015

“When we’re surrounded by people
who believe 
what we believe,
something remarkable happens…
trust emerges.”
– Simon Sinek

When I’m explaining DevOps to someone who has no idea of what it entails, I’m often struck by how many different ways there are to talk about what it is and how it can be implemented. The truth is there is no single answer. The term ‘DevOps’ relates as much to processes and practices as it does to software and organisational structure, and how it’s integrated depends largely on the unique context of your organisation, its internal makeup, and the objectives you hope to achieve by implementing DevOps. There is no cookie cutter approach.  All DevOps implementations do, however, have something in common: cultural transformation. It aims to bridge the gap between development and operations to enable the release of better quality software more frequently and at lower cost. Any tool, process, practice or concept that can be leveraged to achieve this is in essence a component of DevOps. To that end, let’s take a look at what organisations stand to gain through DevOps, and why culture is important to us.

People, Processes and Tools: The Holy Trinity of DevOps

DevOps is a set of practices and principles that aim to optimise organisational structure, working practices, processes and tooling, enabling all stakeholders to deliver higher-quality software, faster. In practice, this comes down to three components: people, processes and tools. Even though your choice of tools is important, it is only one of three components of the DevOps journey.  The two others focus on the people within your organisation, your organisational structure and the processes you follow – in other words, on cultural factors. The best tools will have limited value if they support a poor process.  We would argue that although people and process are two of the three components of DevOps, they are far more than equal constituents.  An open and collaborative culture supported by streamlined and unified processes is the key to DevOps.  Tools underpin a process, and should not dictate how that process is designed.  As such, a successful DevOps transformation is, in our view, one where tools and technologies can be changed almost at will without requiring process or organisational reengineering. It’s critical, therefore, to get buy-in from every member of your team and make sure that your entire organisation understands the objectives of a DevOps transformation, and how their individual role plays into it.

What does a DevOps culture mean for business?

The objective of a DevOps culture is to bring organisations closer together and close any communication gaps or divergent processes that could result in inefficiencies, misunderstandings and conflicts. Ultimately, DevOps means doing away with siloed approaches and opening workflows to your entire organisation. As Ernest Mueller says on theagileadmin.com, ‘DevOps doesn’t differentiate between different sysadmin sub-disciplines – “Ops” is a blanket term for systems engineers, system administrators, operations staff, release engineers, DBAs, network engineers, security professionals, and various other sub-disciplines and job titles. “Dev” is used as shorthand for developers in particular, but really in practice it is even wider and means “all the people involved in developing the product,” which can include Product, QA, and other kinds of disciplines.’ A DevOps culture doesn’t only bring your team closer together with respect to the processes in your organisation – one of the key benefits is that it gives stakeholders a heightened sense of responsibility, facilitates teamwork across all parties involved, and eliminates clashes between dev and ops at crucial stages which may otherwise add unnecessary delay.

Transforming your culture is dependent on DevOps buy-in at leadership levels.

For any cultural transformation to take root, strong buy-in from the upper levels of the organisation is paramount. In the famous words of Joel Barker, “A leader is a person you will follow to a place you would not go by yourself.” As much as DevOps requires the buy-in of every member in your organisation, buy-in from your leaders is critical to achieving a successful transformation. A leader who doesn’t emphasise transparency between development and operations will foster a culture in which poor communication is the norm. Conversely, a leader who is passionate about facilitating cooperation between teams and departments and leads by example will build a culture of support and clarity in communication. When you are asking your staff to become more agile and stop fearing failure, it is critical that they feel they have support from the very top of the organisation down.  Equipping Top-level employees with a thorough understanding of what a DevOps culture is, and, most importantly, how it will look in your organisation will ensure that knowledge ‘trickles down’ to the rest of your staff and empowers them to create a company environment that lives and breathes DevOps.

ECS Digital has more than ten years’ experience with Continuous Integration, Continuous Development, Agile development and DevOps. The breadth of our customers’ sectors and their geographical distribution uniquely positions us to offer tried and tested practices for transforming your organisation.  We offer comprehensive support and consultation services to ensure you’re getti­­ng the best solution possible, and, once that selection has been made, on-site implementation and training. To find out more, please contact us for an assessment today.

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