By Craig Edwards, Principal Solution Architect, Andile Solutions
Every organisation relies on software systems that produce and manage its processes, controls its information, and extends its services to where they are best suited. Companies have been altering these systems as a matter of necessity. Still, such attempts are often expensive as they involve very cumbersome legacy systems and the input of third-party developers.
As systems became a crucial part of core business operations, altering them shifted to being a business imperative. Newer systems became more modular and malleable, allowing the discipline of DevOps to take root and effectively alter business systems from within. DevOps is a crucial phenomenon taking place among modernising businesses, but, DevOps is not a role, it's not a gap a few strategic hires can fill. DevOps is a culture and needs elements that support that culture.
It is a simplistic notion that DevOps is merely about aligning software development with business operations. The value of DevOps comes from defining its objective. What must DevOps accomplish? To reach this aim, DevOps encapsulates specific attributes that should have been part of the software delivery value stream all along:
- Involve all stakeholders (not just development and operations)
- Improve observability and increase transparency
- Communicate through visibility and by involving distribution channels
- Justify every decision by making them traceable
- Create repeatable and measurable processes to facilitate automation
Underpinning these is a need to change the organisation's culture. That culture can be defined through the three spheres of technical practices, management and the organisation. Technical practices’ culture is enhanced through continuous delivery, management culture benefits from lean and agile methodologies, and the broader organisation brings change through leadership.
These are not merely useful alignments. Research into successful DevOps delivery has revealed that the above elements deliver results. Findings from sources such as DORA (DevOps Research and Assessment LCC), as well as the game-changing book, Accelerate, written by DevOps pioneers Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim, justify these elements.
The research points to four key metrics that channel DevOps success:
- Deployment frequency: how often do you deliver value to end-users?
- Delivery lead time: how long does it take between a client request and satisfying that request?
- Time to restore service: what is the average time to restore a service?
- Change fail rate: how often do production deployments fail and require immediate remedy?
These metrics present us with a unified perspective for all stakeholders. Such a perspective has the potential to guide all activities in the value stream, and empirically justify our actions.
DevOps is not a department or a title. It’s a means to an end in the digital business world, encapsulating culture and the entire organisation. By deploying the mentioned metrics, and pursuing culture changes across the whole business, companies can effectively harness the power of DevOps.
Don't get stuck on a name. Defining DevOps continues to be tricky as its use and impact expand across enterprises. It's when you focus on the why and how that you start realising the potential of DevOps and, consequently, the power of a modern digital organisation.