Making DevOps Evolution Happen
The world is in a state of digital disruption. The World Economic Forum says we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, typified by AI and the blurring of lines between human and technology. Carlota Perez thinks we are at the turning point of the Fifth Industrial Revolution: the precipice of a Golden Age. Organizations all over the planet are transitioning their ways of working from project to product to ensure their position in the new order.
And they are all finding it’s a constant race to keep up; in some cases, they feel they are sprinting to stand still. It takes effort to evolve an organization’s culture, processes, and technology to optimize performance for a DevOps environment, and it all comes down to the people.
Our people need to unlearn behaviors and practices some have spent several decades mastering. We need to unpick onerous processes designed to protect us and break dependencies in order to operate at the speed demanded of us.
We have to reframe failure as an improvement opportunity, build dynamic learning and safety cultures, distribute authority, and expect our leaders to enlighten us to be empowered and autonomous. We must train ourselves to think of end-to-end value streams and to constantly inspect, adapt, and shorten them, elevating value-adding activities above all else. We also need to automate, from idea to the moment value is realized, and ensure we use customer feedback to inform our next iteration in the best way possible.
It’s all a very big ask. We know where we are now, but it’s hard to see how to disentangle ourselves from the strangulating processes and bureaucracy we’ve spent years developing for the right reasons. Our human and technology systems are highly complex and frequently fragile, and we can’t expect to reach our long-term DevOps goals overnight. If it were easy, everyone would have already done it.
Every organization looks similar, but different—like a fingerprint. The same patterns appear over and over: governance, regulations, compliance, and security hamstringing us, the impossibility of prioritizing technical debt over much-needed functional changes, and financial models that drive undesired behaviors. The same patterns to solve these challenges also appear over and over.
The key is to not be dismayed or disoriented by the scale of the tasks ahead of us. How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time.
Large-scale mobilization requires a focus on people at all levels, empowering them to discover and make the changes that will help them most; showing them the long-term vision but enabling them to aim for their next target condition; and experimenting with improvements, not just swimming against a tide of work.
Think evolution, not transformation. Think power of the people, not of the board. Think daily, constant improvement and adaptation, not one big bang. You are not thinking the impossible. This is the art of the possible, supported by science.
This article was originally published October 30, 2019 on TechWellInsights.com.
Helen Beal helps people practice DevOps principles in real-world organizations for Ranger4. She describes herself as a “DevOpsologist,” as her main role in her working life is to study the inputs and outputs of the thinking systems that make up DevOps and what value outcomes they deliver that we can measure. Helen is also a product owner and member of the Board of Regents at the DevOps Institute and a DevOps editor for InfoQ. Outside of DevOps, she is an ecologist and novelist. She once saw a flamingo lay an egg and has a particular fondness for llamas.