How To Coach A DevOps Transformation

How To Coach A DevOps Transformation

DevOps is a huge trend sweeping the world of software (and other product) development. According to a study from 2021, over 83% of IT organizations are using DevOps practices in some way.

However, it’s one thing to understand what it means, but quite another to know how to implement this new methodology in your organization.

DevOps doesn’t require just a process change – it requires a cultural shift as well.

Effective DevOps culture comes from “alignment” – understanding how all of the roles in your organization should work together to achieve shared goals.

This guide will help you get started on your DevOps transformation journey. We’ll walk through how to break down the process into smaller pieces so that you can make small changes and see immediate results!

Transformation Challenges

If you are not starting a business from scratch but rather transforming an already existing one, you will probably run into many challenges. This is especially true if it is a large organization.

Some of the crucial challenges you will need to overcome on your agile transformation journey are:

  • Achieving alignment across silos – Silos are usually created as a result of specialization and can exist in any business: Development, QA, Operations, etc. Building cross-functional teams are key to breaking down these silos.
  • Resistance to change – This is a common problem in big businesses where employees are used to doing things the way they’ve always been done. The best thing you can do here is lead by example!
  • Leadership support – You will need support from your leadership team for this transformation, but even then, not everyone might embrace change.
  • Building the required skill set and culture – Achieving a DevOps transformation requires a different set of skills and values than what your organization might currently have. Taking the time to identify these gaps and build them will go a long way in making this transformation successful.

To ensure that every bit of the organization is covered and that you have all the right people in place, SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) recommends a CALMR approach to DevOps adoption:

  • Culture
  • Automation
  • Lean Flow
  • Measurement
  • Recovery

Culture

To fully transform your organizational culture, the following aspects are important:

  • Collaboration – DevOps principles rely on close cooperation between all teams – development, operations, security, and others. Communication barriers should be eliminated or minimized as much as possible, and everyone should work together towards a common goal.
  • Knowledge-sharing – One of the main benefits of DevOps is the sharing of knowledge throughout the organization. This allows for faster problem-solving and the development of best practices.
  • Customer-centricity – Every single team member within DevOps should clearly understand who the customer is and what their needs are.
  • Risk tolerance – The essence of DevOps lies in acknowledging that each release is an experiment that can be validated only by the customers. This means that teams should be comfortable working in high-risk, high-reward environments.

A DevOps coach can help get your organization on the right track by guiding you through these principles and helping you establish the right culture across teams.

Automation

Manual processes stand in direct conflict with the goals of DevOps – to move towards a more streamlined process of high productivity and fast value delivery. Instead, automation will help promote business agility.

Automating a continuous delivery pipeline by using an integrated toolchain can help you move from code commit to customer deployment.

The following are some important aspects of automation that should be considered and implemented:

  • Version control – A version control system (VCS) is a must for automated tests and builds to be run effectively. It allows developers to track changes, collaborate, and merge changes easily.
  • Value stream management – This is the ability to track all changes across the entire delivery value stream. This can help identify bottlenecks and enable teams to work more efficiently together.
  • Infrastructure as code – Using software tools to define and provision your infrastructure increases consistency, helps with disaster recovery, enables testing environments easily, etc.
  • CI/CD – Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are the processes by which developers produce code quickly, validate it, and integrate it into a shared repository several times per day.
  • Test automation – Automated tests are essential for a robust quality assurance process. They help ensure that changes don’t introduce new problems and can be run quickly and easily.
  • Vulnerability detection – Automated vulnerability detection can help identify and fix security issues before they become a problem.
  • Monitoring and Analytics – Tools for monitoring and analytics help you collect data about the performance of your applications and systems. This data can be used to make improvements and optimize resources.

Lean Flow

A continuous flow of value is key to the success of DevOps. This can be achieved by following the principles of lean flow:

  • Visualize the work – Find a way to make a project and its steps visible to all stakeholders. This will help everyone understand the flow of work and identify the bottlenecks.
  • Limit WIPs – WIP stands for Work In Progress. Limit the number of simultaneous WIPs  to increase the flow of value and reduce waste.
  • Reduce batch sizes – Large batches of work can not be efficiently processed, increasing the risk of errors. To optimize flow, reduce batch sizes as much as possible. This can be achieved through investing in better infrastructure and automation.
  • Manage queue lengths – The shorter the queue, the faster the delivery. To avoid overload and reduce wait times, make sure to efficiently manage queue lengths.

Measurement

How do you know when your DevOps transformation can be considered a success? This isn’t  easy to answer, as success means different things to different organizations. However, there are a couple of key metrics that can be used to measure progress:

  • Lead time – The lead time is the time it takes from when a change is requested until it is delivered. Measuring and reducing the lead time is a key goal of DevOps.
  • Deployment frequency – This is the number of successful deployments per time period. Deployments are considered successful when they meet business objectives and do not cause major issues for customers or internal services.

Furthermore, you can include your own metrics, such as the number of code commits per day, the number of tickets closed per day, or the percentage of changes that result in a failed deployment.

No matter what metrics you choose to track, make sure to baseline your current performance and establish goals for improvement. With careful measurement and disciplined execution, you can achieve the successful DevOps transformation that your organization needs.

Recovery

The last factor in the CALMR approach is R for Recovery. The continuous delivery pipeline must be quick to recover from operational failure and be designed for low-risk releases. This is achieved by adopting a ‘stop-the-line’ mentality, fixing forward or rolling back to a stable release, and rehearsing failures.

The stop-the-line mentality means that everyone is responsible for the success of the deployment, and if there is an issue, they will stop what they are doing to help out.

Fixes must go through the same pipeline process as new features in order to preserve all of the benefits. If there is no good fix for a problem, rolling back to a stable release is the best option.

Rehearsing failures involve simulating common production issues, such as service outages or application errors, and testing how humans and automated systems handle them. This is much better than just hoping for the best when something goes wrong.

Who facilitates the transformation?

We already mentioned DevOps coaches as one of the facilitators, but there are other key players.

Development teams must be fully engaged in promoting collaboration and automation to achieve efficient hand-offs between them and operations. Their buy-in is crucial for success.

Ops are responsible for educating themselves about development methodologies, continuous integration/delivery practices, infrastructure management tools, and deployment platforms. This will help them to guide development teams through the new process.

They must also be willing to invest in automation tools to support DevOps practices more effectively.

DevOps relies heavily on collaboration and communication, so the entire organization must be on board for it to be successful. By involving all parts of product development, you can create a culture of continuous improvement that will lead to better products and happier customers.

Conclusion

DevOps doesn’t just mean automation. It also means thinking about operations as an integral part of your development process. This will enable you to build better products that meet users’ needs, reduce downtime, and make everyone happier.

Coaching a DevOps transformation can be achieved through CALMR, an approach that considers culture, automation, Lean/Agile methodology, measurement, and recovery. By applying this model to your organization, you will collaborate with development teams to improve hand-offs and promote automation.

Key players in this transformation are development teams, ops education, and investment in tools. Finally, the entire organization must be on board for it to be successful. With careful planning and execution, you can achieve great things with DevOps!

Contact The i4 Group if you have any questions about how to coach a DevOps transformation or would like help getting started.