I first heard the term DevOps about 5 years ago. I was transitioning from a world where words such as Agile, scrum, iteration, product backlog were the common parlance of developer discourse. Endless debates about what scrum and Agile was and not confusing the two. At the same time is was trying to understand what this new kid on the block meant.
Fast forward to five years later, the term Agile seems to have been silently swept aside from the marketing hype cycle.
I think as a marketing fad the word DevOps has become confused to mean many things by different organisations. The last few years we hear cries of “Your organisations needs a DevOps team” or doing DevOps will guarantee digital transformation!
A shift in mindset first
The reality is DevOps is not really a methodology it is rather a mindset and cultural change for organisations. If executed correctly delivering it can provide huge rewards to organisations. The way I view DevOps is a set of practices and principles that promote some changes to how development and operations work:
- Cultural values that encourage communication and collaboration
- Eliminating silos
- Adopting automation at all parts of the delivery cycle
- Delivering change in an iterative and incremental way (no big bang releases)
- Making CI/CD a cornerstone of how you deliver applications and Cloud solutions
Executive buy in is crucial
These essential characteristics can only be gained if the people, process and product engineering are in union with one another. Additionally, it is important to demonstrate in non business language to C-Suite what business benefits this will bring. If this can’t be done then organisations will have a difficult time convincing CIOs, CTOs and the IT leaders that this is something to invest in in terms of people, time and funding. Executive’s want to know how the business can improve and what are the tangible results of adopting this approach.
What the industry is doing
One of my previous bosses introduced me to the DORA state of DevOps report. This was back in 2018. It is a very useful report as it gives important analysis of the state of play how companies are adopting DevOps across many businesses.
Reading the latest DORA state of DevOps report for 2019 unveils some interesting findings. The top 3 industries who responded to the report using DevOps as a way to lead digital transformation initiative were:
- Technology at 38%
- Financial Services at 12%
- Retail at 9%
Is the message understood by C-Level?
In terms of participants who responded from departments the report found the top three were:
- Development of Engineering at 30%
- DevOps or SRE at 26%
- Manager at 16%
- C-level Executive at 4 %
The 4% for C-level is an interesting finding. Could this be an indication that the ideas and language are not permeating into C-Suite discussions?
Another interesting fact is respondents from larger companies (10, 000+) only accounts for a quarter whilst two quarters of respondents were from companies with a size of 20-1,999 employees. Again, one of the greatest challenges is changing how organisations work. In traditional matrix enterprises, breaking down silos, flattening the structure can be very challenging!
Are teams getting better?
The report seems to allude that engineering teams are getting better at delivering against the key metrics of (https://stelligent.com/2018/12/21/measuring-devops-success-with-four-key-metrics/):
- Deployment frequency (Elite=on-demand multiple deploys, Low=once to six months)
- Lead time for change (Elite=Less than one day, Low=between one and six months)
- Time to restore service (Elite=Less than one hour, Low=between one week and one month)
- Change failure rate (Elite=0-15%, Low=46-50%)
Compared to 2018 there has been an increase to 20% classified as elite. This is tripling from 2018 figure of 7%. Low performers are down but slightly from 15% in 2018 to 12% in 2019.
Public Cloud leads
The report also indicates from the respondents that more and more companies are using multi-clouds. Public cloud leads application hosting at 50%. This is no surprise as automation, programmable infrastructure (IaC), CI/CD are first class citizens.
The best way to start improving is to take an incremental and continuous improvement approach. There is no point jumping in to a toolchain approach or going on a hiring spree. First understand the pain points, bottlenecks in your processes. Select a particular area and then use principles of automation, CI/CD, source control to improve it. One step at a time.
To summarise the term DevOps does not seem to be a fad. However, what is clear is the marketing fad and language does not always translate to C-Suite interest. If you want to have success, executive buy in is a must. To read the DORA report please use the following link.