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DevOps success requires business and cultural shift

Cultural resistance and immature tools are limiting companies’ ability to ride the digitisation wave with streams of software-driven initiatives

DevOps is regarded as a key ingredient in digitisation initiatives, according to a report from Freeform Dynamics for CA Technologies.

Based on a global survey of 1442 IT and business professionals, the Assembling the DevOps Jigsaw study reported that 77% of UK respondents said they agree/strongly agree they must streamline IT to free up resources for digital investment.

The survey also found that 72% agreed/strongly agreed they must be prepared to experiment and fail quickly on the road to success.

Freeform Dynamics said DevOps is delivering a significant advantage to organisations’ market performance across Europe.

According to the study, 65% of those respondents who describe themselves as "advanced DevOps adopters" said digital initiatives made a major contribution to allowing them to act quickly on opportunities – compared with 17% of organisations with no DevOps adoption.

By contrast, 37% of all UK organisations – comprising users and non-users of the DevOps methodology – said digital initiatives make a major contribution to allowing them to act quickly on opportunities.

Ritu Mahandru, vice-president solution sales, CA Technologies, said: “Digital interaction with customers, partners and suppliers increasingly takes place through applications, apps and online services. To innovate new customer experiences, be more agile and grow revenues, UK organisations require a much more rapid and continuous delivery of value to create competitive advantage, while simultaneously allowing IT to become more responsive and efficient.”

But many organisations are ill-prepared to take full advantage of DevOps.

The study found that some 68% of UK organisations agree it is important to break down cultural barriers between developers and the operations teams – but only 38% have fully dealt with cultural transformation.

Getting past traditional lines of demarcation, ingrained mindsets and long-established turf wars takes time and patience, according to CA Technologies.

The study found that, when someone says they have adopted DevOps, this does not necessarily mean they have done it comprehensively. “Most say they have done what’s necessary around strategy and objectives, for example, but this is still a work in progress for many,” the report stated. The evidence also suggests that, even where a strategy exists, business stakeholders do not always buy into it – which in turn impedes effective priority alignment. Overall, the picture is consistent with many DevOps initiatives driven “bottom up” from within IT.

Read more about DevOps

Sharing is key

By definition, code is developed to run on IT infrastructure, which should be shared, according to Tony Lock, distinguished analyst at Freeform Dynamics, to take advatage of the devOps opportunity. He said: “You really need an operations infrastructure that works in a shared environment, which needs to be as efficient as possible.”

Among the barriers to cross-departmental sharing of IT resources is the way IT projects are financed. Lock said: “Finance is a bit behind. IT budgets have to move away from siloed individual projects.” Software licensing also needs to change to reflect the shared usage model, he said.

As the research shows, DevOps requires a cultural shift where projects are allowed to fail quickly. But Lock believes the process to manage successful projects needs to be tightened, since DevOps has been adopted by developers and operations team from the bottom up, and so there is no overarching DevOps IT strategy.

However not all apps requires top-down management and compliance. An app that frequently gets replaced may not need very tight govenance around it, Lock said. He said the industry has put a lot of effort into developing orchestration to ensure apps are deployed as efficiently and securely as possible.

But even with apps that only have a short lifespan, if they are deployed on a shared infrastructure they still need to be managed, otherwise the shared IT resources will run out. “When you deliver an app, when do you switch it off?” Lock pointed out.

Cultural change does not exist in isolation of technology and processes. But the tools for DevOps orchestration and management are still fairly immature, according to Lock. “A lot of tools are version 1.0 or 1.5. Many things are changing in DevOps so there is no 15 to 20 years of good practices.”

While many of the tools to support DevOps have been brought into organisations by the developer and operations teams, there also needs to be top-down IT management.

Ultimate goal

In a recent interview with Computer Weekly, Mark Foulsham, CIO at insurance firm esure, described how DevOps could change the culture of IT. “You have to think about how you will gradually move the business towards a continuous delivery model. And, as new products come up, we push more and more towards an agile approach at esure.”

Not all IT initiatives lend themselves to this approach. For Foulsham, a mixed approach to deployment represents a key best practice lesson for other CIOs. “Don’t destroy the delivery chain, as the IT team will still have a range of existing services that it needs to maintain in a traditional way,” he said.

Equally, as Lock pointed out, DevOps cannot be achieved through a rip-and-replace exercise. Instead, CIOs need to consider that some of the tools they will require are immature; there is no best practice and technical infrastructure may change over time as shared IT infrastructure evolves.

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