Devops

How to Get Your Business to Care About DevOps: DevOps Explained

Posted by Tomasz Kruszewski

For people who live and breath DevOps, we forget that the topic can confuse the uninitiated.  

You need to make sure that the person in charge of your budget and directing the priorities of your department or business understand DevOps. This is true if you’re attempting to sell the creation of a DevOps team, or you’re a DevOps Manager struggling to gain the resources and buy-in needed to do your job.  

If DevOps is not approached appropriately it can cause just as many problems as it fixes. Worse, it can tarnish the ‘brand’ of DevOps, setting back your transition to a fully modern application development process, critical to the future success of the entire business and the industry drive towards on-demand-enterprise.

Luckily, selling DevOps to senior management is easier than you think. It hinges on getting every party involved to look at DevOps as ‘in their best interest’. That means you need to think about exactly who you are speaking with. In every case, setting the right expectations will put you on the right track as you progress.

Here, we will explain how to talk about DevOps, how to talk about DevOps to different people and what you need to stress to get the most out of what DevOps has to offer.

What is DevOps?

Before diving into different talking points, we need to make sure that we are on the same page when it comes to a simple explanation of DevOps.

  • DevOps is the combination of development and operations teams into a single function. Distinct roles remain under DevOps — they are simply unhindered by silos.
  • The goal of DevOps is to improve communication, bring development expertise into operation management and use operating feedback to improve development.
  • DevOps requires a significant cultural change to embrace new, transparent and collaborative ways of working.
  • DevOps allows for agile development and faster releases of more incremental changes — creating a continuous integration / continuous development (CI/CD) pipeline.

In DevOps, the wall that devs “throw” applications over is removed and replaced by a more transparent and accountable system. It removes the all too common friction between Dev and Ops of “it works for me” by aligning motivations.

In the best case scenario, self-healing DevOps and real-time error capture allow Ops functions (responsible for front-line support) to seamlessly engage with Dev teams on difficult problems while minimising issues to end users and improving subsequent developments. Development and operations work harmoniously to drive better outcomes and improved innovation.  

DevOps enables on-demand enterprise, driving profits and a competitive advantage

The big selling point of DevOps is that it will drive growth. Businesses are in the game of making money. With DevOps, this isn’t a stretch. DevOps is a better way to do application development. When done right, “at scale”, innovation is increased, risks decreased and outcomes improved. DevOps is critical to hyperscaling. It allows for more flexibility within a system capable of far greater growth and responsiveness. Change and access become ‘on-demand’.

DevOps is agile within software development. That means faster-releases, changes executed more quickly, minimising downtime, and feedback loops that allow teams to take on real-world data and customer input. This is a critical segment of creating the on-demand enterprise — allowing users to access information and services when they need them, and dynamically responding to input. This is critical to innovation, growth, and meeting the expectations of customers and employees alike.

Delivering the on-demand enterprise allows for better customer relationships. It also allows you to attract and retain the best engineers. Talented people want to work on the cutting-edge. You need a fast-moving organisation to hire and retain the best staff. The next generation, raised in an on-demand digital environment expects this. All of this means improved outcomes, competitive advantage and more sales. It means better business.

Drawing parallels to the benefits of other agile initiatives in your organisation or other industries may help non-technically minded people understand the value of DevOps. However, the bottom line is that DevOps will improve your bottom line, employee retention and hiring.  

With DevOps, you will be able to dynamically respond to change, develop faster (developing a competitive advantage), have less downtime and improve user experiences. This is exactly what everyone wants to hear.  

DevOps empowers operations teams

Operations Managers can be a sticking point for DevOps transformations. Bringing their department together with “Development” can feel like a loss of power or prestige. The truth is that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

DevOps aligns the goals of operations and development. It prevents operations teams from being stuck picking up the pieces of unfinished dev projects. It improves outcomes and makes sure that the interests, priorities and values of operations are embedded with developers from the very start.

When speaking with Operations Managers, it is far better to frame DevOps as an expansion of “Operations”, rather than a subsuming of their authority within another department. Back this up with an appeal to the improved outcomes that DevOps is proven to deliver.    

DevOps decreases unplanned work, increases innovation and links KPIs to revenue

The flipside of upset Operations Managers are Dev Managers that worry about their domain becoming impeded by the concerns of operations teams. Again, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

With DevOps, speed and innovation become the priority. Rather than remaining hung up on massive projects, rewriting code that becomes harder and harder to identify within an increasingly unwieldy test environment, devs are enabled to regularly work on incremental improvements. Those projects get released, results can be seen in the real world and feedback is taken on board to improve.

The smaller steps mean that faults that do occur are easier to resolve (if the tools are in place to identify them). This means the focus can remain on continuous innovation and improvement rather than struggling to manage unplanned errors or repeatedly testing monolithic applications within inadequate test environments.

DevOps monitoring tools, that use metadata to link errors to revenue allow Dev and Ops teams to remain on the same page and drive the goals of the company. This allows Dev teams to more clearly define their priorities, demonstrate their value and define responsibilities.

For Devs, DevOps is an exciting opportunity. Their day-to-day will become more interesting, while also ensuring that their focus remains on the best interests of the business — with reporting tools that demonstrate that. Goals across the business are unified. Innovation, clear value and interesting projects with a lowered risk of catastrophic failure should all be stressed when speaking with Dev Managers.        

DevOps is Culture

DevOps is not simply a department, a job title or toolset — it’s culture. It hinges on adopting ways of work that empower the collective decision-making, agile development and high-velocity release cycles at the heart of DevOps. Without that, your outcomes will not change.

Delivering on the benefits of DevOps requires buy-in from across the entire organisation. It is a system that thrives on information, collaboration and cooperation. Processes must be set up that allow for information feedback loops, quick response times and continuous innovation. People must then actively seek to put this information to use within their daily workflows.

The collective cultural aspect of DevOps is why explaining DevOps to head management from across your organisation is so critical. Making sure that people understand this is essential when speaking with any stakeholders within your company.

DevOps culture depends on the right tools

DevOps depends on culture, but that culture is empowered by technology. If you do not build the right DevOps toolchain and CI/CD pipeline, you will not be able to construct cultural processes that can actually execute change.

The need for information feedback

For example, DevOps acknowledges the inability for test environments to exactly replicate production environments. This is why, even using Waterfall development methodologies, you can never entirely remove the risk of production failure. The right tools can make a big difference, but you always need in production observability.

DevOps seeks to harness that uncertainty and transform it into innovation, gathering real-world insights from the production environment and feed those back into incrementally improved builds. This strategy is a key component driving the high-velocity release cycles and small change. The constant feedback loop is what sets DevOps apart.

True observability tools that allow root-cause error fixes

To actually take advantage of this theory, you need tools that can deliver real-time, root-cause analysis of applications in production without damaging performance. That means going beyond traditional APM tools and logs.

The cutting edge observability solutions bring flight recorder (record & replay) dynamic code analysis and deliver a 100% reproducer of code in production environments in real-time, every time. When it comes to delivering this capability without unacceptable impacts on performance, RevDeBug is the market leader — pairing this capability with other features like dashboards providing global software deployment heat maps rollbacks and a self-healing DevOps process that maximises visibility and minimises the impact of an error on users.   

Use your tool choices to assure managers of quality outcomes

Continuous integration means code release and updates that sometimes operate on the scale of minutes. Fear of releasing bad code is real. Hearing about such a dramatic change in release schedules can cause resistance from Dev Managers, Operations Managers and even executives.

You need to understand your toolset to explain how you plan to remove these risks and instead use the production environment to maximise application innovation and quality. Having these tool decisions in mind will help you explain the risk/reward payoff of DevOps to everyone you need onboard.  

DevOps is the future of application development

There is no avoiding DevOps. Particularly with the increased use of cloud-native architecture (containers and serverless), the incremental innovation of DevOps is only growing in utility. You will either adopt DevOps now, or later. Like with most change, adopting early brings bigger benefits. That determinism might be one of the best rhetorical tools in your arsenal. Don’t forget about it.  

Effectively explaining DevOps to management is a large part of what is needed to successfully execute a DevOps strategy. So much of your success is getting cross-departmental cooperation. DevOps truly is a better solution for application development. Using it to improve your outcomes just requires articulating that to the right people in the right way.

Once you get buy-in, you need to make sure that you set yourself up to succeed. This primarily means building a toolchain that will enable you to effectively execute fast release cycles while minimising risk. You need to take observability seriously and invest in tools that will direct your teams to root-cause error fixes fast using real-time data and actionable insights.  

With cross-departmental buy-in and the right tools for the job you will be set to let loose the agile innovation of your DevOps approach to software development.

Good luck!

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