DevOps: 5 things teams need from CIOs

August 19, 2020

Originally published on The Enterprisers Project.

Consider these lessons learned as you strive to give DevOps teams what they need to succeed – from flexible technogy models to transparency.

Today, successful enterprises must be agile enough to offer flawless digital solutions while constantly responding to fluctuating market climates, customer demands, and competitive strains. Because enterprise services, product offerings, and applications are elaborate, DevOps is quickly becoming a requisite methodology for delivering business value to customers continuously and efficiently.

For many leaders (myself included), it can be challenging to fully understand DevOps and its operations. Too often, this lack of understanding prevents enterprises from adopting a holistic perspective of DevOps as a lucrative, business-driven software delivery system.

Successful DevOps strategy: 5 lessons learned

Here are some things I’ve learned while implementing DevOps practices into Clearbridge Mobile’s culture. I hope they help you and your organization adopt a more holistic approach to DevOps.

1. Say goodbye to legacy systems

Unfortunately, many enterprises rely on legacy systems to support different processes throughout the software and product development life cycle. Not surprisingly, these methods aren’t nearly as versatile or flexible as they need to be for today’s agile workflows and processes.

To keep up with the pace of software and app releases, your developers and product teams need the ability to automate different test scenarios quickly, continuously, and in real-time. Your teams do not have months and weeks to test, analyze, and update code before a new release. Investing in the tools they need to migrate to more modern platforms gives teams the flexibility they need to meet demand.

As convenient and trusted as legacy systems are, if you are serious about DevOps, updating your legacy systems and architecture should be a primary focus. This is especially important as technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality gain momentum and popularity. When planning budgets into the next year, consider designating resources to replace these legacy systems.

[ Are you focused on the right priorities? Read also: 3 DevOps skills IT leaders need for the next normal. ]

2. Move more to the cloud model

Moving to the cloud model is critical to the adoption of DevOps. While the transition can seem daunting, the result will benefit everyone within the company. The cloud enables greater up-time than any in-house lab or server and creates a stable development and testing environment that will boost productivity and release velocity.

Here are some common cloud migration barriers to avoid:

Failure to re-architect

Simply lifting and shifting applications isn’t enough – you need to re-architect IT to take advantage of the new environment. The easiest way to do this is by utilizing your cloud providers’ web services. Cloud providers offer dozens of valuable web services that can radically simplify and reshape applications that move to the cloud. Keep in mind, however, that these services can increase costs.

Lack of training

Training is an essential part of the cloud migration process. As CIO, it is your responsibility to invest in training and to ensure that resources are readily available to your team members. Having access to cloud resources early in the migration process is critical to long-term success.

[ Are you empowering your DevOps experts? Read also: DevOps engineers: Common misconceptions about the role. ]

3. Focus on the right emerging technologies

Keep your team focused on the technologies your organization needs rather than the latest trending tech. For instance, IoT is a hot topic these days and a primary focus for many DevOps professionals. IT leaders eager to jump on this trend are trying to determine how this technology fits within their organization. 

As a leader, you should have a thorough understanding of your organization’s products/services, audience, and competition. These factors will dictate what technologies to focus DevOps teams on. Consider the following three key questions to help you decide whether a new technology fits your organization’s vision and goals:

Is it part of the core function of your product or service?

Different products and services require different tech stacks. You’ll know a tech investment is worth your resources if the technology is necessary to keep your product or service running smoothly. Ask yourself if it is essential for you to operate.

Does it make economic sense today?

While it is important to think about the future, CIOs also need to prioritize the present when making technology decisions. Timing is everything when investing in emerging tech. A cutting-edge tech solution might make more sense for your business down the road than it does today.

Does it solve a problem or add real value?

Technology should help your organization do what it does better, faster, and more efficiently. While virtual/augmented reality, AI, or blockchain technology might generate excitement, if they don’t add value to your business, they’re not worth the investment in money or your DevOps team’s time.

4. Work with DevOps pros on AI

Machine learning, deep learning, biometrics, and other AI implementations are quickly finding their way into many different industries and aspects of our lives. But most organizations have yet to determine how to use DevOps with AI in the enterprise.

I believe the best role for AI in DevOps is analytics automation. This supports the DevOps principle of using automation tools to drive efficiencies and help teams deliver rapidly and continuously. For executives and DevOps pros, working together on these priorities will encourage greater collaboration and better alignment within the organization.

To keep up with the latest in AI and inform your decisions on which technologies to pursue, I suggest consulting the professionals who best understand AI principles, methodologies, and how the technology should be implemented.

5. Be transparent 

Collaboration is paramount to any team’s success. After all, the goal of DevOps is to improve relationships by emphasizing better communication and collaboration between the IT and development departments.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to implement and engrain cross-team collaboration into your culture. My number-one rule to CIOs when it comes to collaboration is to be transparent with all involved. Transparency helps teams avoid misunderstandings by enabling team members to understand all aspects of a project.

Here are some steps that can help you improve transparency:

Ensure that each team works well on its own before you have teams work together. For different teams to work together successfully, the individuals on each team must be able to work with each other. Make sure that development personnel attends all relevant meetings and discussions with operations/IT teams, and vice versa.

Listen. Concentrate on what your team members are communicating. Be mindful; do not take a passive approach or focus only on your response. Remember that you can often gain more from listening than leading. This builds empathy and gives others in the room an opportunity to express their own message.

Leaders need to keep learning

To realize the business value of DevOps and capture emerging market opportunities, enterprises need to build a DevOps culture and create conditions for fast, predictable, and high-quality software development. This change, however, can’t happen without support from top-level management.

As leaders, we need to learn from those inside and outside our organization and apply what we learn. With collaboration from all stakeholders, I’m confident that more organizations will succeed in their transformations.

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