Stuck While Attempting DevOps

As a movement, DevOps has quickly captured the attention of IT organizations over the last few years. DevOps has evolved to address the growing complexity of delivering technology-driven solutions under increasing customer and business demands, with shortened business cycles. There are many examples of companies practicing DevOps with significant benefits, a vibrant technology ecosystem (and the cloud!) making DevOps easier, and ample published evidence backing up vendor claims. All of this makes it seem like DevOps has “crossed the chasm” – safe for all organizations to adopt. However, while many organizations are having success with DevOps, some are now becoming stuck, unable to realize the benefits they hoped were possible. These organizations are unsure whether the hype around DevOps has led to inflated expectations or wondering if there might be something wrong in their approach or lack of experience in their team. If you are in one of those organizations who’s stuck, it might be useful to start with a reminder about how the DevOps got its start and its initial focus.

DevOps, a term first coined in 2009, was initially used to describe improvements in development and operations practices to reach “seamlessness, transparency, and full integration.” The need for this sort of advance was becoming evident across a variety of companies in the early 2000s as the organizational walls between development and operations, combined with a need to deliver more things quickly, resulted in increasing tensions, conflicts, and finger-pointing between development and ops teams. Early DevOps practitioners used techniques that relied on making boundary-crossing improvements using agile methods, crossing the traditional borders between development and operations, across the entire development lifecycle.

“The collaboration among disciplines involved in delivering and operating technical solutions is DevOps’ real breakthrough.”

While DevOps has evolved beyond its roots into an expansive set of concepts, practices, technologies, and tools, the initial realization of across-boundary collaboration among disciplines involved in delivering and operating technical solutions is DevOps’ real breakthrough. The point of DevOps becomes “Optimizing the Whole,” in terms of teams, teams-of-teams, practices, technologies, business, tools, and culture. DevOps fundamentally embraces the concept of “The Learning Organization” with its emphasis on the components of Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Building a Shared Vision, and Team Learning (1990, Peter Senge, “The Fifth Discipline”).

We’ve found the concept of the learning organization is the critical foundation on which successful DevOps adoption occurs.

If your organization’s DevOps adoption isn’t achieving the results you intended, here are some questions to consider:

  1. Does my organization have a simple vision and inspiring mission that resonates with both technical teams and their business counterparts?
  2. Do I understand my current system in terms of development value streams, teams, practices, skills, and culture?
  3. Can I describe the key ways I want to measure progress and improvements?
  4. Do teams have the authority and time to understand and improve their part of the system?
  5. Is there a distinct understanding of how supporting teams — QA, Service Management, Infrastructure, Security, Enterprise Architecture — play in the system optimized for DevOps?
  6. As a leader, do I trust my teams to be “self-organizing” and “self-managing?”

Here are some reasons that you might be stuck:

  1. Your organization didn’t “start with a strong WHY” to align teams on a shared mission.
  2. You have a DevOps team, separate from delivery teams, that implements tools and steps of the process, like automation. (Note: DevOps teams that focus on knowledge collection and radiating best practices are a virtuous thing).
  3. Your first DevOps pilot focused solely on building a toolchain.
  4. Your first DevOps initiative focused solely on getting to the cloud.
  5. Leadership declared the organization would do DevOps, but did not explicitly empower teams to make changes to their systems, processes, tools, teams, or cultural norms.
  6. An XYZ team (insert Security, Infrastructure, DBA, QA, here) does not feel that they need to participate in DevOps or they want to but have been excluded by accident or oversight or because of turf wars.

If you’re stuck, need answers to some of the questions we’ve asked you to consider, or have tried to implement DevOps without getting the outcomes you expected, then we’re here to help.

We’ve developed a diagnostic to help you quickly pinpoint your DevOps capabilities, compare those to best practices, and identify and help you prioritize DevOps improvements. More than that, we can support your journey towards better business outcomes through DevOps, based on our years of experience transforming many organizations, large and small.

A Feld Group Institute affiliate organization, Arrowhead Labs, was founded with the belief that every organization can achieve radical and sustained improvements in IT performance and business impact. We possess deep expertise in disciplines like DevOps, scaling agile practices, enterprise architecture, software development, service management, and cybersecurity. As change catalysts, we work with clients in applying the transformation framework of the Feld Group Institute. We act as advisors, guides, and embedded coaches, helping our clients organically and sustainably transform into breakaway organizations.

Author: J.R. Jesson, Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute and Founder, Arrowhead Labs – a Feld Group Institute partner
Connect with J.R. Jesson on LinkedIn

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

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Russell Villemez

Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute

Head of Technology Strategy, Dialexa – a Feld Group Institute partner

Highly regarded CTO and change agent with IT strategy and enterprise architecture expertise.

Russell Villemez is an Affiliate with the Feld Group Institute and the head of Technology Strategy at Dialexa, a Technology Research, Design and Creation firm that works with organizations on initiatives such as Operational Transformation, Business Growth, and New Venture Creation.

During 17 years in operational roles and 15 years in consulting roles, Russell has worked across a variety of industries in both executive leadership positions and as a subject matter expert. Russell thrives on the scale and complexity of leading major change agendas in large corporate environments.

Recent consulting clients include AmerisourceBergen, the American Automobile Association, Brinker International, Cubic, Equifax, and Cox Automotive. A common thread is the client’s need for strong leadership during a period of change—whether motivated by acquisitions, spin-offs, competitive pressures, or other factors. Clients also benefit from Russell’s expertise in enterprise architecture, agile development, application portfolio rationalization, technology and architecture strategy, as well as business strategy and commercial software product development.

Recognized as a versatile IT executive, adept at solving complex problems with innovative solutions, Russell’s capabilities and achievements span a continuum from business-strategy formation to hands-on IT solution development. His extensive career achievements include pioneering the first use of relational databases in high-volume transaction systems in the ‘80s, applying voice recognition DSPs in public intelligent network services for consumer markets in the ‘90s, and leading large-scale adoptions of open systems, object technology, and middleware frameworks in complex business environments, often in advance of commercially available software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Russell served at HP as Enterprise Services Chief Technology Officer for the Americas, leading a global capability for embedded Account CTOs in large enterprises. Russell began his career at Accenture, where he first crafted his consultative problem-solving approach, later honed at A.T. Kearny and the Feld Group. Russell’s deep telecom experience is built upon numerous director and enterprise architect positions at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Telstra, US West, Pacific Bell, and Sprint, and as V.P. and CIO for WebLink Wireless.

Russell has a BS in Business Administration from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. In his spare time, Russell participates in amateur auto racing, and is a driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.