Why DevOps matters

And how to start your journey

Software is eating the world. People are told they need DevOps, but what is it exactly and what does it mean? This post helps you get your DevOps facts straight.

DevOps is a good idea

The DORA organization spends its time looking at DevOps in the real world - its adoption and effects. They present their findings in the annual State of DevOps Report, available online.

The bottom line is unambiguous: DevOps is a good idea.

In fact, the reports show more evidence each year. Yes, the authors want to sell the message. Obviously. But they back it up with facts and numbers. There’s even C-Suite candy like Key Findings and Executive Summary. And let’s face it: I want to sell the message too, hence I am writing this post.

So why is it a good idea? I really want you to read the reports yourself, but here are some headlines: Save money by delivering innovation faster. Save money by discovering defects earlier. Improve your culture and get happier employees.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

DevOps is a mindset. Period. Practice that sentence until it becomes your instant reply if I wake you up at 3 AM.

The goal is to improve both quality and speed of software delivery. Gene Kim explains this as The Three Ways.

The first way is systems thinking. Focus on the performance of the entire system, from development to delivering value to your users. This is where automation helps a lot. Identify bottlenecks and remove them. Any executive understands the business value of delivering stuff faster.

The second way is to amplify feedback loops. Get feedback earlier and respond to it. If you can find a defect before it reaches a customer, it won’t hurt as much.

The third way is to experiment and learn. It is enabled by the two other ways, because they provide an environment where we feel safe to make changes. Because we get to see how changes affect the entire system.

It is important to realize that this affects our culture. We must learn that it is in fact desirable to fail fast. Let’s digress for a moment. Suppose you have a kid and you want to teach her how to cook. Would you shout at her when she drops the jar of flour on the floor? Nah. You would probably tell her: don’t worry, keep going, practice makes perfect.

There is work to be done

To adopt the mindset, it is not enough to do knowledge sharing sessions. We need implementation too. You need evangelists that spread the good message. You need to get the practices implemented in the teams. Most people just don’t get started by themselves.

Sometimes you can find early adopters. Acknowledge them and support them in convincing their team members. If you cannot find early adopters, try to create some. Perhaps by doing pair programming. Maybe you kickstart an improvement initiative, say, Jenkins as code or automated deployments.

Journey

There are people problems

Not everything can be solved with a cool technology or piece of code. That is part of why you need the evangelists. Someone needs to spread the message, not by sending mails or newsletters, but by meeting the developers in their daily context. At eye level.

Some people are afraid to change. Sit down with them and listen to their concerns. Show that you care. The last thing you want is for your awesome frontrunner engineering support team to become yet another silo that people loath.

Finally, some people just don’t want to change. I say ignore them. Win the majority and eventually the squares will be forced to change. Maybe their career.

To get an idea of some of the emotions you may encounter, read The Inside Out of DevOps.

Celebrate your victories

It is important to remember that moving to DevOps or continuous delivery is a big thing. See it as a journey rather than a fixed task. In fact, you are never done, because there will always be room for improvement.

But this does not mean that you will never complete tasks. Take care to break down the journey in steps. Look out for the small improvements you make every day, week or month. Be explicit about celebrating these wins in your team. It can be done in many ways: Put post-its on a board, make announcements, serve cake. Anything to make it visible that you are making progress, even though the entire journey is huge.

Fireworks

Summary

In this post, we have taken a quick look at what a DevOps journey means and why you should board the train. I hope to see you there.

Some points to take away:

  • You are never done. This is a good thing. You don’t expect to stop making software. So you shouldn’t stop caring about it either.
  • Introducing DevOps does not come for free. But it’s worth it. By now, the reports suggest that it is unavoidable.
  • DevOps is a mindset. Not all problems can be solved by code. So you need people with people skills too.
  • DevOps is proven. It is enabling modern software development.
  • DevOps is a buzzword. Yet many companies still have to recognize its potential. That’s why we keep buzzing!