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How to Build a DevOps Culture: A Guide for CXOs



How to build devops culture

Here’s one essential factor that brings tailwinds for the agile transformation journey — DevOps, the amalgamation of development and operations. Building a DevOps culture aims to break the siloed structures within the organizational hierarchy and bring collaboration, shared responsibility, and communication to the forefront.

The upshot of it — reduced lead time and technical debt, faster time to market, and, thus an all-time better product development.

According to a 2019 Google Report, the percentage of DevOps teams has been increasing over the years.

Participants who work in DevOps teams have increased since we began our study, reporting 16% in 2014, 19% in 2015, 22% in 2016, and holding steady around 27% for the past three years. — Accelerate State of DevOps

The DevOps team works in a group with a common motive — offer a product that works well on all fronts, i.e., requirement adherence, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. The team believes — alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!

Here’s a comprehensive guide on what is DevOps culture and how to carry out a DevOps culture transformation now that the impact of COVID-19 on businesses demands a rapid change.

What is DevOps Culture?

DevOps is a portmanteau, i.e., a combination of Development and Operations. It is a set of practices that the organization follows to enhance the software development life cycle process. In the right words, it is a cultural shift where the development and the operations team consciously and intuitively collaborate and communicate to foster productivity.

DevOps is a set of practices intended to reduce the time between committing a change to a system and the change being placed into normal production while ensuring high quality. — Len Bass, Ingo Weber, and Liming Zhu, Computer Science Researchers

1. What does Development in DevOps mean?

A development team’s major objective is to convert ideas into a product that solves end-users’ problems. Here are some responsibilities they carry on their shoulders:

  • Requirements gathering
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Product Backlog refinement
  • Ensuring continuous delivery

2. What Does Ops in DevOps Mean?

The operations team’s primary objective is to deploy the product and manage it throughout the product’s life. Here are some responsibilities they carry on their shoulders:

  • Renting out server space
  • Configuration management of server and storage
  • Managing outages
  • Managing backups and security
  • Deployment and maintenance

understanding devops- Role of development and operations

DevOps Culture: Principles

Here are three principles of DevOps that lend a hand at changing the mindset of everyone in the development and the operations team:

1. Shared Responsibility

The development team working in tandem with the operations team is the core objective of shifting towards DevOps. It is about understanding that the product development team and the operations team have a shared responsibility for product deployment and maintenance.

The ops team needs to be more involved with the Agile Development team — being proactive is the key here. If the Dev and Ops team are co-located, share responsibilities, and understand roles — you can expect your product to succeed.

2. Collaboration and Communication

In an entrenched DevOps culture, there is no place for siloes between development and operations. This happens when the team collaborates and continuously communicates to offer continuous integration and continuous delivery.

While the development team focuses on delivering user stories, the operations team maintains the product’s all-time availability and security.

To achieve the mentioned goals, the DevOps team must work in a cross-functional setup throughout the software development lifecycle. If things fall into place from the beginning, it is likely to cause fewer headaches in the long run.

3. Product Over Project Mindset

The traditional mindset that has been prevalent for years is that – once our task is completed, we’ll hand it over to the next team and move on.

They forget that this passing over of the baton and stepping aside is not the end goal, i.e., delivering the assigned task and forgetting about it is not synonymous with growth.

You will have to engrave a product mindset over the project mindset. You will have to take care of the product as a team throughout its lifetime over changing course and not looking back when the project ends.

The adoption of a DevOps culture mindset will ensure that your team inclines towards the product mindset that, in turn, helps in better management of continuous integration and continuous delivery.

Benefits of DevOps Culture

DevOps brings value to the table. Here are some benefits that will answer what is driving the adoption of DevOps today:

1. Delivers Customer Value

With automation of CI/CD pipelines, the speed to delivery and deployment increases. The DevOps cultural shift ensures that you have a workable product that solves users’ problems and it is available and running at all times.

This, in turn, implies that customer value is given utmost priority.

2. Breaking Existing Silos

DevOps aims to break the existing silos between the two teams with the amalgamation of the development and the operations team. The two teams communicate and constantly collaborate, attend scrum meetings together, and even conduct retrospectives.

The DevOps works as a single unit to ensure that development and the associated operations are in harmony.

3. Better Focus on Core Functionalities

By building a DevOps team, the manual processing and approval seeking will take a backseat. The continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment, i.e., the CI/CD pipeline, is a significant ingredient of enabling a DevOps culture, which means automation will take over the major process of the development and the subsequent deployment process.

This way, both the development and the operations team can thus focus on the core responsibilities, i.e., developing and deploying high performing, quality software that does well at all fronts and is secure.

With an improved focus on the core competencies, the team can reduce lead time and technical debts.

4. Competitive Advantage

With the successful integration of the DevOps, deployment speed gets a positive boost. For instance, with a practical implementation of the DevOps culture at Etsy, they can now execute around 50 deployments in a day leveraging continuous delivery. Also, Amazon is now able to deploy code every 11.7 seconds with DevOps.

The pace of continuous delivery enabled by DevOps allows you to stay ahead of the curve and stay valuable to your customers. Because if you are valuing the end-user experience, you move your growth trajectory towards a positive direction.

5. Empowering teams

When the DevOps approach is implemented, it establishes a trust that everyone in the team contributes equally to the continuous delivery chain. A culture of trust means the empowerment of every individual, ultimately resulting in more motivated employees who contribute towards productivity.

That is the beauty of an entrenched DevOps culture change— teams working in cross-functional setups and offering an opportunity to learn from each others’ experience.

Benefits of implementing devops culture

How do you Develop a DevOps Culture?

Every organization considering DevOps is looking for a “How-to” guide to drive the collaborative culture’s migration. However, there is no universal path that ensures success.

Everyone’s DevOps journey is different, which depends on the state of digital transformation, the processes and practices, and the organization’s running culture.

The common practices that help to put DevOps in practice include:

1. Imbibing the Shared Roles and Responsibilities Culture

Embracing new roles and responsibilities is a prerequisite in a DevOps culture change. The need is to polish existing skills and fill the existing skills gap to ensure that DevOps’ initialization leads to a fruitful outcome.

There is no exclusivity to development in a DevOps setup, and the same stands true for operations. Instead, they are now one team with a shared responsibility towards completing the task at hand.

Moreover, the automated approval systems lend a hand at smudging the difference between the independent teams. This new setup helps them collaborate and communicate better and helps the Devs and Ops team wear each other’s hats for a better understanding of the process.

Thee shared responsibilities of the Devs and Ops team include:

  • Joint planning for product development and infrastructure deployment
  • Build a CI/CD (Continuous Integration/ Continuous Delivery) pipeline
  • Prioritizing automated testing to ensure timely bug fixtures, redeployment, and maximized delivery speed
  • Building an automation-led culture to cut down on the traditional approval and sign-offs practice
  • Immediate response management when tickets are raised

2. Automated Testing and Deployment

Automated testing is a critical process that helps in managing continuous integration. The automated test suites ensure that the test results are authentic and that there is no room for human error.

This, in turn, helps the testing team report errors and the development team working through them for fixtures. The moment the bugs are fixed, automated deployment ensures that the DevOps team manages to maintain product quality and speed of delivery.

The fundamental objective is to shorten the release cycles through automation. It helps eliminate the obligation to seek approvals and manages unwanted delays while offering value in turn.

3. Running Continuous Retrospectives

If continuous improvement and learning need to be embedded in the system, retrospectives cannot be given a miss. Traditionally, a retrospective is an agile practice where the development team shares their learning from past projects — weighing what they did right against what went wrong.

The upshot of running retrospectives is to find out what needs to change to avoid past mistakes.

In a DevOps setup, running a retrospective is highly recommended. These retrospectives help identify:

  • Discuss the exciting gaps in the delivery and deployment cycles (with respect to the previous sprint or project)
  • What went well, and where do you need to improve
  • Are the processes, DevOps tools, automation, and people in place?
  • If there was a visible outage, who was responsible?
  • What impediments cause harm to the DevOps practices — Is it the mindset, the lack of process or tools, or unawareness?

The goal here is simple — find what is going well and work on polishing it and find out what is amiss and look for ways to accommodate it in the next sprint cycle.

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DevOps Culture: Challenges

Implementing DevOps practices may not turn out as a rosy journey unless planned and executed properly. Some of the impediments include — lack of skills, friction in adopting culture change, inability to adopt better and advanced methods, the complexity of applications and tools, choosing the wrong tools (what worked for others may not be best for you), budget and stakeholder pressure.

Overcoming the Pitfalls of Implementation of DevOps Culture

As with any adoption, the initial phase is difficult and full of ups and downs. Pitfalls, while implementing DevOps culture, have a similar story and can be overcome with a focused strategy for each pitfall.

For instance, lack of skills, lack of culture, and test automation can be overcome by skill enhancement programs/ training.

A well thought out training program will have a two-fold positive effect:

  • Skill enhancement
  • Employee engagement

Application complexity is subjective, and hence should be seen differently. DevOps pipeline for one project may be very different from another. The pipeline will depend on the technology, domain, and complexity of the application.

DevOps pipeline for Azure will rely primarily on Azure DevOps toolkit where DevOps pipeline for an on-premise or AWS deployment may use a toolkit like Jenkins, CircleCI, etc.

It is suggested to apply the 80-20 rule and see the projects or technology lines that can fall into one category and can be brought on a single DevOps pipeline and toolchain. These should be high-value projects, and having them on board will give the necessary impetus to the team’s culture and morale.

Once the toolchain is established, other projects should be considered and brought on to the DevOps pipeline.

Also, an organization will have to invest in people, policies, and products (toolchain) to implement the DevOps culture. This investment should be budgeted and carefully run as any other project. The team should be aware of budget and timelines and should work according to the speculated timelines.

Conclusion

The enablement of the DevOps culture and mindset implies the merger of development with operations — the secret sauce for any product’s success. Creating workable and error-free user stories that prove to be a product-market fit is only fruitful when the deployment and maintenance take the course of continuous delivery.

Consider the shift to DevOps seriously to prove valuable now and in the long run. For starters, work on shifting the team mindset and train them for new roles and responsibilities.

The end goal should be to work throughout the product’s lifetime instead of doing your job and forgetting about it. It would be impractical to say that embracing DevOps is a one-day, a week’s, or a few month’s job.

DevOps is a cultural shift and will take time, but taking baby steps towards the enablement will help you deliver value in a continuous cycle.

contact Net Solutions for devops-driven product development

Akash Lomas

About the Author

Akash is a Technical Architect with an extensive experience in MS stack. He is passionate about architecting solutions, coding and enhancing process delivery. He envisages a foolproof solution and holds no bar in achieving his goals. Besides, he is a loving father and is very fond of spending time with his son. He believes in keeping the child alive within himself.

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