What is DevOps?

There is a lot of confusion in the world about DevOps. Some of that might be because the concept hasn’t been well defined, or implemented, in many organizations. It might also be because other companies have been running as DevOps organizations for years without having a name for what they did and no good way to talk about their practices as a whole. Plenty of those efficient organizations resent having DevOps presented as a “new” idea when it’s been their modus operandi for years.

I an across a primer on DevOps that I thought was a good explanation for management. It’s not perfect, and the piece minimizes the problems of changing culture and attitude. There is an emphasis on breaking down barriers and silos, but no discussion as to how managers should do this. I think most people expect managers to know how to get teams to work together, but in practice, I have found few managers that could do this.

There is no magic to DevOps. There isn’t a tool you can buy, or a consultant that you can hire to implement it. All you can do is get help and guidance in helping your staff to learn to work more closely together. Developers have to learn to consider the operational impacts of their work, while formalizing some of their processes. They need to automate their testing, but also the packaging and installation of their software, while working in standardized environments. Operations is the flip side of this, in that Operations staff must be responsive and quick to build the standard environments developers need. They must work with developers to feedback issues and requirements from Operations to the developers, including bugs that can be caught with changes to the automated testing processes.

DevOps is about working together. With respect and professionalism, but also the attitude that we can help each other do our jobs better. This impacts our compensation and reward systems, as well as organizational structures. I wouldn’t underestimate the impact this has on the way an IT department works, but I also wouldn’t be afraid of the changes. However I would move slowly, evaluating the impacts as processes change, and working to assuage the fears and concerns of your staff.

Ultimately DevOps, in my mind, isn’t about saving money or getting software build faster. It’s about working together to become more responsive to our clients as our software becomes ever more important to them.

Steve Jones

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