There are many benefits to adopting DevOps principles within an organization: increased efficiency, reduced downtime, better customer experience, and better business agility. It is no wonder that this initiative has been sweeping across various industries, not only technology.
An enterprise DevOps transformation entails changes to culture, process, and technology. A successful conversion starts with the foundational principles of DevOps, such as the continuous delivery pipeline, collaboration, and automation.
The DevOps transformation should focus on the entire organization, not just the technology department. The goal is to deliver more value faster to the customer. The transformation needs to cover all aspects of the business, including development, operations, QA, security, and marketing.
This blog post will go over the steps to successfully implement a DevOps transformation.
What is DevOps?
The term “DevOps” comes from merging development and operations into one group of people who work together on an equal level. This isn’t just a step towards delivering more value faster – it also requires a significant culture shift within an organization.
DevOps as a concept first originated in the IT and software development industry. However, the principles of DevOps can be applied to any organization that wants to increase efficiency and reduce downtime.
The basic concept of DevOps is to break down the barriers between development and operations and introduce collaboration across all aspects of the business. The so-called departmental silos that often exist in an organization can prevent information from flowing freely, impacting the customer experience. DevOps aims to solve this by bringing all the necessary people together to work on a project as one DevOps team.
Is DevOps the same as Agile?
The Agile mindset includes a set of values and principles that lead to better collaboration between development, QA, operations, marketing, etc. DevOps and Agile are not one and the same; however, the two movements share some of the same values.
The main difference between Agile and DevOps is that DevOps is more focused on the technical aspects of delivering products, whereas Agile encompasses the entire product development life cycle.
DevOps can be seen as an extension of Agile, which helps to further break down the barriers between different departments.
DevOps and Agile are not mutually exclusive – an organization can adopt both principles to achieve even better results.
Before you embark on the DevOps journey, it is important to understand the foundational principles of DevOps. These principles are the key to a successful transformation and should be followed by all organization members.
Value Stream Management
Value stream management includes the identification of the end-to-end flow of value from the customer to delivery.
The goal is to optimize the flow of value so that it can be delivered faster and more efficiently to the customer. This can be achieved by identifying and removing bottlenecks in the process.
To do this, you need to understand the entire value stream and how each department contributes to it. This can be done by mapping out the flow of value and identifying the handoffs between different departments.
Once you have a clear understanding of the value stream, you can start to optimize it by introducing changes to the process and technology.
The continuous integration/deployment (CI/CD) pipeline is the foundation of DevOps implementation. It is a process consisting of multiple steps, which are automated as much as possible.
The goal of the pipeline should be to move code from development into production to deliver value faster and increase quality through testing before it reaches customers.
A successful CI/CD pipeline needs to have tight feedback loops so developers can get feedback on their code as soon as possible. This allows them to fix any problems and ensure that the code is ready for production.
The pipeline should also be automated to run quickly and easily. This will minimize the amount of manual work needed, which can often lead to errors.
Continuous improvement or continuous quality are two DevOps practices that go hand in hand.
The goal of continuous quality is to ensure that the products and services delivered to the customer meet their expectations. This can be done by implementing a process of constant testing and feedback.
For continuous quality to succeed, it is important to have a collaborative environment where feedback is given and received freely. The team should be empowered to make changes and improvements.
Ensuring that all of your work is secure is crucial for effective DevOps.
To implement continuous security, you need to have strong data protection policies and a process for identifying and mitigating risks.
The goal is to make security an integral part of the development process so that it becomes second nature to the team. This can be done by implementing tools and processes that help to identify vulnerabilities early on in the development cycle.
Security should not be seen as an afterthought – it should be integrated into the entire process.
Delivery pipeline visibility is key to a successful DevOps transformation.
For continuous monitoring to be effective, you need to have a process for gathering and analyzing data from all of the various systems in your organization.
The goal is to have complete visibility into the entire delivery pipeline so that you can identify any issues early on and prevent them from causing problems further down the line.
You should also have a process for responding to incidents and fixing them quickly.
When there are multiple changes to a product being made simultaneously, it can be difficult to track down the source of a problem.
Version control is a DevOps practice that helps to mitigate this issue.
It involves keeping track of all changes to a product or a file and who made them. This allows you to go back and trace any problems back to their source.
Related to version control, configuration management is what is stored in version control.
Configuration management helps to ensure that all of your systems are optimally configured. It is important to have a process for managing and updating your configurations so that you can keep track of any changes made to them.
All of your deployed solutions need to be stable and resilient. This is where infrastructure management comes in.
Infrastructure management includes the setup and administration of your servers, networks, and other IT resources. It also provides for monitoring these systems to ensure that they are running optimally.
To be successful, you need to have a process for managing and scaling your infrastructure. It would be best if you also had a plan for dealing with outages and other emergencies.
If the DevOps practices and principles we described sound like a lot of work, that’s because they are.
Transforming an organization to adopt a DevOps model is not easy, and there will be challenges along the way.
Here are some examples of what you might expect:
- Struggle to achieve alignment across silos
- Insufficient tools and automation
- Lack of transparency into the delivery pipeline
- Deliveries that are too slow, causing customer frustration
- Increased risk exposure due to lack of visibility into the entire process
- Resistance to change and a general unwillingness to cooperate
- Lack of support from the leadership
Regardless of what challenges you may face, the bottom line is that a DevOps transformation can bring tremendous value to your organization.
By adopting a CALMR approach, as outlined by the Scaled Agile Framework, you can start to break down the barriers between development, operations, and management. It could lead to a more collaborative environment that overcomes many of the issues you may be facing.
Here is a breakdown of CALMR.
The C in CALMR stands for culture. To achieve DevOps success, you need to have a culture that is conducive to change.
This means that everyone in the organization needs to be on board with the new way of working and cooperating.
Collaboration and knowledge-sharing are key components of a DevOps culture. Your teams should communicate with each other about what they are working on and how it can help their colleagues.
It is also important to empower your teams so that they feel like they have some control over the direction of their work.
Ultimately, having a DevOps culture means creating an environment where people respect one another for who they are and don’t blame others for their mistakes.
From our outline of DevOps principles, it is clear that a DevOps initiative largely depends on automation.
You need to automate as much of the process as possible to speed up deployments and reduce the risk of human error.
This includes automating your build, test, and deployment processes. It would help if you also looked for ways to automate your monitoring and management tasks.
The more automation you can introduce into your workflow, the more successful your DevOps process will be.
It is important to automate where you can, but it is also necessary to have a process of manual checks and inspections as well.
This allows for human intervention to catch problems before they escalate into more serious issues or cause service disruptions. By incorporating both DevOps automation and manual processes, you can achieve the best of both worlds.
A lean, continuous flow of value is the third component of CALMR.
The lean flow process is about reducing batch sizes, clearly visualizing the work, limiting the number of WIPs (works in progress) your organization is working on, and having a culture that encourages good work habits, like self-organizing teams, and continuous improvement.
Lean flow can help you speed up delivery times while keeping your services running without any service disruptions.
This means that customers get solutions faster, and there are fewer problems with integrating new software components into the workflow.
You need to have a way of measuring the success of your DevOps transformation so that you can make course corrections if necessary.
There are some DevOps KPIs you can use to track the progress of your initiative: cycle time, lead time, throughput, and quality metric.
You should also have a way of measuring the success of your automation efforts.
These DevOps metrics will help you understand what is working, where improvements need to be made, and how much value you are getting out of your DevOps initiative in terms of time saved and money earned. When used correctly, they can give managers valuable insight into whether or not a DevOps strategy is worth the investment.
Here are some of the key metrics you should consider when measuring the success of your DevOps initiative:
Pipeline Flow Metrics
A delivery pipeline that is fast and stable is a key component of a successful DevOps transformation.
There are several ways you can measure the performance and stability of your pipeline:
- Lead time – The average amount of time it takes from the start of development to the delivery of a working product.
- Deployment frequency – The number of times a change or a new product version product is deployed to production.
- Change volume – The number of changes (new features, bug fixes, etc.) that are released into production.
- WIP volume – The number of work items in progress at any given time.
Solution Quality Metrics
The solution you are building for your customers is as important as your process to develop it.
That is why solution quality metrics should be monitored and used in conjunction with pipeline performance measurements.
These metrics can help managers track how efficient their teams are, measure customer satisfaction, and identify problems before they become more serious issues that affect business operations or result in financial losses.
- Change failure rate – The most important solution quality metric to watch. This is the number of issues that come from changes made to a solution or component after being released into production. Essentially, it is the percentage of customer releases that resulted in a degraded service and had to be fixed.
Solution Value Metrics
Finally, it doesn’t matter if you have a high-performing pipeline that delivers high-quality solutions if they don’t provide value to the customers.
There are several solution value metrics you can use to track the progress of your DevOps transformation, including:
- Return on investment (ROI) – The amount of money returned to the company as a result of investing in a DevOps transformation.
- Net Present Value (NPV) – A project’s value is measured in terms of its return on investment.
- Customer ticket volume – The number of customer tickets (requests for support) opened each month.
- Customer satisfaction – The percentage of customers satisfied with the solutions you are delivering.
- Time to restore – The average amount of time it takes to restore service after a problem has been identified and the solution is available.
Keep in mind that there are other metrics you can use to measure the success of your DevOps transformation. The ones listed here are some of the most important, but you should tailor your measurements to fit your organization’s specific needs.
Lastly, the R in CALMR is recovery.
If the delivery pipeline encounters any operational failure, the ability to quickly and efficiently recover is essential.
Your DevOps teams should rehearse failures and recovery scenarios regularly to make sure they can move through them quickly. Everyone should strive to adopt the ‘stop the line’ mentality, which means that any team member who notices a critical problem should stop the line, and everyone should stop working to address it.
Fixing forward focuses on fixing the problem and preventing it from happening again rather than trying to track down the cause of the problem. A DevOps culture that embraces this philosophy will help you recover quickly from failures.
In the end, if there are apparent fixes, rolling back to a previous, more stable version of the solution is an option. This should be used as a last resort, however.
As you can see, starting a DevOps transformation requires a lot of planning and forethought. It is not as simple as just talking to your team members or hiring new people, but it’s well worth the effort because DevOps will deliver increased value and results.
The foundational principles of DevOps should be followed to ensure a successful transformation. The entire organization should be involved, from the executive team down to the individual contributors. You could go the CALMR way, slowly introducing changes such as a new culture, more automation, lean flow, effective metrics, and rehearsed recovery.
Don’t forget to measure your success so you can continue improving and delivering value to your customers.
Remember that DevOps is not a single tool or process. It’s a culture change that you can adopt to make your business more agile and efficient. You will need to continually work on your transformation to ensure you are getting the most value from it.
If you are looking for help with your DevOps transformation, the i4 team can assist. We have years of experience in helping organizations transition to a DevOps culture. We can provide training and coaching to ensure your success. Contact us today to learn more.