5 Steps to Starting a Successful DevOps Transformation

Last month, we launched our DevOps and SDLC blog series to impart some of our years of experience within the software development world. As part of this, we’re going to bring you a new and thought-provoking blog post each month. We also want to start a conversation with fellow developers both new and old, so no matter which category you fall into, please feel free to chat with us in the comments. This month’s blog is all about 5 Steps to Starting a Successful DevOps Transformation…

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So you’ve decided to start an organizational transformation with DevOps. Great! But what now?… Well first and foremost, don’t panic. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the job at hand but the reality is that DevOps isn’t some form of magic that only sorcerers can create (for the most part). DevOps is an attainable practice for businesses that want to rapidly build and release high-quality products for their customers. For a smooth transition, follow these five simple steps.

Step 1 — Start Small

Embarking on this journey is a great opportunity to reflect. What do you want to achieve? What’s motivating the business change? Why now? Take some time to step back and look at the bigger picture as the implementation of DevOps should be a business-driven IT goal. It’s also worth inviting wider teams within the business to be a part of this dialogue. Like you, they will have their own ideas about what processes could be improved through DevOps. This will empower teams whilst giving them a set of commonly defined goals to strive for, which in turn will make them more receptive to change further down the line.

Next, choose a couple of small to medium-sized projects from the open discussions to start with. Such projects will allow you to ease your way into a DevOps transformation because they require less time, fewer people and there’s minimal impact if anything goes wrong (touch wood). Baby steps are key here and it’s important to not run before you can walk. In terms of IT systems, try to choose projects that are largely cloud and web-based as newer technology with lower legacy debt will make the world of difference when it comes to your first transformation.

Set achievable and measurable goals, fail fast, and learn from your mistakes. It’s also important to communicate progress to the wider organization to keep them engaged in the process. Starting small will allow you to gradually gain confidence and create a strong momentum for future projects.

Step 2 — Choose Wisely

The team that you select when you’re first setting out on your DevOps transformation journey can be the make or break factor. Here, you need to choose wisely and select the right people with enough credibility and influence to get this off the ground.

It could be tempting to choose specialists in order to have a highly experienced team, but this can be a mistake for many companies when they’re first starting out. Instead, consider choosing generalists over specialists in order to have access to a wider range of knowledge and skillsets. You also need to have a balance of innovators, early adopters, and well-respected people from within the company.

One of the most difficult things about implementing a successful DevOps transformation is coming across people within your organization who believe that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Whilst this age-old saying is true, it’s also a limiting belief in the world of software development. The key to combating this is ensuring that the company has a forward-thinking leadership team with strong communication skills, in order to effectively communicate the reason for change across the company.

Step 3 — Value Flow

Part of implementing DevOps and selling the process to your wider company is generating value early. That’s because a common belief is that DevOps implementation is an expensive investment. Whilst investment in time, tools, processes, and overall education is necessary, the rewards are well worth it.

What’s more, is that the benefits of DevOps on productivity and quality can be reaped before a full process has even been implemented. A Continuous Delivery/Continuous Integration process, automation of releases and infrastructure provisioning, and application management will all deliver significant and measurable value. And that’s even before they have been completely integrated into an automated software development process. Magic, right?

Optimizing your value flow from development, to operations and then directly to the customer will help to make DevOps an easier “sell” across the business. The goal here is to speed up the process of bringing new features to customers as this is the ultimate measure of value. To do this you will need to increase the quality of work by increasing real-time visibility whilst reducing batch volumes and work intervals. Money and numbers talk so let DevOps do the talking for you.

Step 4 — Constant Feedback

Introducing a constant flow of feedback will align development with customer needs. This means that your team will be able to discover problems more quickly, resolve these problems more efficiently, and increase customer satisfaction. It’s a win-win-win situation. You will also have an accurate gauge of which features should be expanded or not, ensuring that time is only spent on the most important features to your customers.

We recommend building an automated Continuous Testing framework right at the very beginning of your transformation, in order to provide immediate feedback as products and applications are developed, fed into the CD pipeline, and delivered to production environments.

Step 5 — Trust the Process

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, unfortunately, your DevOps transformation will not be either. Whilst speed might be the name of the game when it comes to DevOps, the process of implementing this culture should not be rushed. A huge cultural change needs to happen to support greater experimentation and risk-taking, in order to evolve with an ever-changing market.

You will need to instill trust and communication as the pillars of your business because traditional roles and processes are going to change. For example, one of the keys to a successful DevOps transformation is integrating product deployment and maintenance into the wider software development life cycle, instead of keeping them separate. This integration is likely to involve the restructuring of departments, as these functions are usually managed by a separate team. Such restructuring can cause tension and a reluctance to change, but if you’ve cultivated a strong business culture then you’ll be in the best position to successfully implement this. This will also give you an edge over your competitors.

The reality is that DevOps is all about trial and error which takes time. You’ll need to experiment. Find what works for you and your company. Find what doesn’t. Make improvements and strategies that are based on measurable results. Communicate and collaborate. And then repeat this process until all of the projects and products that you identified in Step 1 have been transformed.

Congratulations on choosing to embark on your DevOps journey. Unlike other journeys, DevOps does not have an end. Instead, it’s all about continuous improvement, so strap yourself in for an exciting ride!

At Snapbytes, we assist our customers by assessing their current SDLC maturity, planning the DevOps roadmap, and guiding them through this journey. We’re experts in DevOps, Atlassian, and custom development solutions. To find out how you and your business can benefit from DevOps practices and principles, please get in touch.

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