Company culture is a block for DevOps, says study

For organizations that create their own applications, DevOps is increasingly getting their attention.

Broadly described at a collaboration process between software developers and IT operations staff to build continuously improved code, DevOps promises to deliver cleaner and more secure code than letting developers work alone. However, a recent Microsoft-sponsored study discovered that while DevOps is being given a test-drive by many organizations, there’s hesitation to put it into production.

The study done by Saugatuck Technology of over 300 development and IT operations professionals and managers, found 71 per cent of respondents  have pockets of IT automation and 54 percent are incubating DevOps in one or more small projects. But only 37 per cent of  have a formal DevOps strategy today.

“To succeed in managing complexity, DevOps should grow beyond these pockets of best practice to span all organizational groups and their project activities,” say the authors. What’s getting in the way are “long-established cultural habits and other forms of organizational resistance.

“How to nurture the growth of DevOps will take somewhat different forms, depending upon the organization and the nature of its cultural resistance. In some organizations, it may be sufficient to raise awareness through training and positive incentives. In others, the strong hand of executive leadership may be required, especially when cross-organizational collaboration is suffering due to stovepipe mentalities.”

Developers are more concerned with innovation and productivity, the study says, while IT operations sweats control, availability and production efficiency. “Transcending these narrow, but important points of view is essential in order to collaborate on delivering manageable solutions to drive and benefit the organization, serve the customer and attract new business revenues.”

Asked to identify the top challenges in expanding DevOps in their firms, 52 per cent said cultural issues; 37 per cent said lack of DevOps experience; and 29 per cent said lack of executive buy-in; 27 per cent said they didn’t have the time (too busy keeping the lights on); and 26 per cent said they had trouble finding the right people to put on the project.

Saugatuck offers the following best practices for building a DevOps culture:

1. Start with smaller projects and create a virtual centre of excellence. That may create a place for gathering and disseminating information and guidance. It might also establish and maintain consistent practice across the organization;

2. Conduct DevOps awareness and training seminars to build a spirit of collaboration;
3. Identify, evaluate, standardize on a DevOps toolset;
4. Include business analysts in the centre of excellence,  because they can identify and maintain relevant business metrics to drive the creation of business value. Where possible a business owner should be present as the overall lead.
Agree on consistent set of key success metrics that the Center of Excellence will report regularly to business executives and other organizational sponsors.
One very successful approach is to implement tools to gather and report on those metrics, e.g., information dashboards with drill-down detail;
5. Evaluate progress regularly and repeat with improvements for each new project or set of initiatives. Progress toward defined milestones should be communicated to senior leadership and other teams to reinforce successful practices, show key learnings, and inspire other teams to want to do the same.

“A successful DevOps organization is a living process of continuous improvement and not a static shell to retreat inside,” says the study. Its purpose should be proven and its processes improved on a regular basis with no endpoint in mind. Rather, the
DevOps organization should evolve in order to deliver business value for the organization — and not the set of technology-driven methods, tools and practices that make that business value possible.?

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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