DevOps: You keep using that word…

These days there are lots of folks talking about DevOps. We read about DevOps in the Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, and in endless Gartner and Forrester reports. We’re told we must have DevOps for our organization to survive against our competitors. Executive teams across a spectrum of industries are itching to “get the DevOps” in order to maintain relevance in a world being eaten by software.

In all that’s being written and discussed, there continues to be some confusion about what DevOps is along with the value it provides. Adam Jacob, the CTO of Chef, gave us a really great definition at ChefConf 2015:

DevOps is a cultural and professional movement, focused on how we build and operate high velocity organizations, born from the experiences of its practitioners.

As he expanded on what this definition means, Adam included characteristics such as empowering teams and building consensus. His focus on the importance of the human factor reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with Mike Loukides, who is now the Vice President of Content Strategy at O’Reilly Media. His perspective was that DevOps is a movement that “stresses communication, collaboration, and integration between software developers and operations teams.” What I love about this is the focus on how we realize the benefits of the DevOps movement. The only adjustment I’d make today is to say that DevOps should encompass all teams, not just the technical folks.

My own experiences have reinforced my initial belief that the heart of DevOps is the importance of people and how we work together to accomplish the goals of our business. Like others, I’ve found there are numerous benefits to be realized by adopting DevOps such as  decreasing the time-to-delivery of our product, the higher quality of that product, and a better quality of life for those doing the work to deliver that product. Let’s touch on these ideas further.

The Value of DevOps

Nicole Forsgren is Chef’s Director of Organizational Performance and Analytics. Her research on DevOps and IT performance yielded the following results, which she presented in her talk at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2014.  Her data showed that companies which adopt DevOps can achieve the following:

  • 2x change success rate
  • 12x faster mean-time-to-recovery (MTTR)
  • 30x more frequent deployments
  • 8000x faster lead time

In short, there is now data to back up the idea that companies which adopt DevOps have a strong advantage over their competitors. The ability to introduce change more frequently and in a safer manner gets products into customers’ hands faster. DevOps is not just a kum ba yah sing-a-long driven by the web operations teams who first created it. DevOps is good business sense.

The added benefit of DevOps is to the practitioners themselves. In companies which adopt DevOps there is a higher level of job satisfaction amongst employees. Practitioners of DevOps find empowerment through the meaningful, challenging work that comes from increased collaboration with their peers. The benefit of this job satisfaction to companies should be of no surprise at all. As Adam rightly said, “Happy people make happy products.

Starting Your DevOps Journey

Once you agree to the value and benefits of DevOps, you probably begin asking yourself “Where on Earth do I start?” This is a fair question that’s often asked these days. It can be difficult to know how to begin. Some folks think adopting a new tool is the starting point, others see the creation of a new team as the first step, while others may hire individuals who’ve driven transformation in other companies as a means of starting their own. In truth, they’re all right. The path one organization takes may be very different from the path another organization takes because they’re all starting from different places.

So I’d like to invite you to join me for a webinar on June 16th at 10:00am PST which helps answer the question of how to start your own DevOps journey. I’ve had one of my own, talked to a lot of others who’ve taken similar paths, and coached companies through their particular transformations. I’d like to share some ideas on getting started, mapping your journey, and dealing with the challenges you will encounter.

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John Martin