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“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path.” Paulo Coelho
Over the last 4 years as a CIO Advisor for HPE, I have been advising organisations in the adoption of collaborative working across the business not just IT. Co-creation across the business and IT boundaries can create effective lean & agile practices that can take full advantage of DevOps processes. These organisations have spanned multiple geographies, technologies, cultural background and skill sets. Through these experiences I have learnt a lot – mostly that these transformations are very hard, normally take much longer than anyone wants, and that it is super important to learn from others on your journey to your transformation, be ready to face the oasis and deserts – in both cases and don’t stop.
DevOps Transformation Journey Choices
Here is an understatement – Change is difficult.
In all my long experience as a CIO and CIO Advisor (30 yrs. +) I have never seen any organisation relishing the thought of having to change any process, people, activity, project, etc etc. It is normally done with great care and attention. Hence, there are various facets when effecting change, even when agile practices may already be mainstream in an organisation.
Consequently, moving beyond agile to unleash the full potential of the business by the use of DevOps practices requires the next level of collaboration, co-creation and automation. But, with all life-journeys, there will be blockers on the route – whether that be cultural, process or simply people. It is important then to adopt the right decisions-tools to address the pain points and convert the pain into relief as it becomes the easiest way to get it done anyway. The choice of people (champions of change), culture (away from not invented here), processes (from rigid to supple) and tools (adopting agile/collaborative tools) will dictate your journey choices and difficulty in getting to your destination.
As Paolo Coelho states – “In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike”
My 3-Step Plan for an Effective DevOps Transformation Journey
This is my 3-step approach to DevOps Transformation that I use with organisations who are on this journey. It is NOT a sequential step approach, it is an agile step approach – that is to say sometimes sequential, other time concurrent but mainly aligned to the culture and capacity of the organisation.
However, because cultural change, politics and behaviour underpin every aspect of any transformational change programme it is essential to read each step within this context and ask a critical question each time in terms of “is the organisation ready for this?” For instance, if your initiative is about accelerating the delivery of new capabilities within your sales and marketing department – but it needs the support and training of 25,000 front-line staff – can you afford this, how long will it take, what’s your ROI, etc etc…
You need to understand where the boundaries are politically and economically and figure out how to break those down.
Step 1 – Expand agile practices beyond IT
Too often DevOps is seen as the mandate solely of IT and there is an assumption that the business and in particular its C-level executives don’t take any interest in the software development function nor understand words like “agile” and “waterfall”, never mind “DevOps” – they just want it to get done.
It is essential to explain that there has been shift to the way software is being developed with the advent of agile and DevOps that resembles the lean manufacturing shift in the 80s and 90s. Furthermore, it is a well understood fact that “software is eating the world” and most businesses need apps (both mobile and web apps) to sell its products. Any time you have an app, software development is seen as a critical part of the day-to-day business strategy. Hence, C-level executives are definitely taking a deeper interest in how these things can be delivered in an effective way
Still, without true business involvement, customer feedback and effective operations to break down silos and improve outcomes, the expected efficiencies and benefits will never come. All stakeholders in an organisation must be involved with full support from its leadership and management across all disciplines.
Step 2 – Shift Left within a Continuous Culture
Continuous this, continuous that, continuous everything where every organisational discipline has had this notion ingrained into their very DNA as a process of finding and eliminating waste on an ongoing basis. Add today’s agile age, where continuous delivery is a critical outcome in order to survive it is hence part of an organisation’s business culture that must involve everyone, leadership, management and employees.
If we also add the premise of “Shift Left” across an organisation you would then move things that we typically do in later stages earlier. (It is human nature, but many people tend to defer particularly tough issues) – even shift left in terms of the customer by empowering the customer further.
DevOps is predicated by shifting left in its testing approach, performing testing earlier in the software delivery lifecycle which will inevitably eliminate long back-end dependencies and increase quality.
Step 3 – Empower a culture of Fail Fast not Fail-Silently
When I first started my business work life it was a norm to “fail silently” where you mask the failure, hope it does not get spotted, blame someone else or simply ignore the issue. New ways of thinking by innovative companies is for the business to fail fast & fail often as long as they learn the lesson. This strategy can help the company grow in an agile way. Across the organisation not just technology DevOps “failing” principles can include:
Fail Early, the sooner the failure is spotted, the sooner the learning begins and the sooner you can ultimately fix it. This will also allow you to get real and fast feedback about what works and what does not; *. Fail Fast, so that we can begin the learning process as fast as possible. In DevOps for instance a test driven process where you write a failing test before you even produce the code;
Fail Often, the more things you try, the more failures you will see and therefore the more chances to both learn and steer your output in the right direction. In addition, this will remove the need to waste time by working on incorrect avenues;
Fail Better, with early and frequent failures you maximise the learning which will deliver customers advocacy.
According to Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, “the only thing constant is change.” Indeed your business, and particularly the way you run its digital performance, is no exception. But although DevOps is obviously the evolution of software development from waterfall delivery to agile delivery - its premise and baseline is predicated by sound business principles that must be applied across the business – NOT just IT.
True transformation and change, continuous agile processes, collaborative and co-creation working, effective governance and quality services are a matter for all disciplines in an organisation. IT obviously must enable the business with effective technologies and governance, but it cannot do it alone – it needs a true partner in the business to deliver effective business solutions and outcomes.
WW Strategic Transformation
Hewlett Packard Enterprise