Three Keys to Aligning Digital and DevOps

Source – news.sys-con.com

On first glance, Digital Transformation and DevOps seem to be separate, disconnected endeavors – especially once you realize that Digital Transformation is more about aligning the organization with changing customer needs and desires, rather than software.

DevOps, in contrast, appears to be all about the code – how to build, maintain, and update it more quickly. Yet this view of DevOps also misses the bigger picture, as the movement is more of a cultural and organizational change that fosters greater collaboration across development, operations, and other teams within the IT organization.

If you compare the two paragraphs above, however, one key concept joins the two initiatives: change.

Change, in fact, is what both Digital Transformation and DevOps are all about. Recognizing that change is constant. Every aspect of the organization, from the customers to the technology, is always changing.

Thus for organizations to survive and compete in today’s turbulent world, change must become a core competency.

The Myth of the ‘Final State’

Where many organizations go wrong on their path to Digital Transformation is to assume that ‘transformation’ means going from their current state to some digitally transformed one. After all, business transformations of the past have had some kind of end state, a light at the end of the tunnel if you will.

Not so with Digital Transformation. In reality, organizations must go from less able to deal with change to more able – in other words, making change itself something that they as organizations become experts at.

In order to embrace change in this way, the entire corporate culture must itself change. Management structures must change. Teams must change. How organizations large and small take action must change.

It’s a tall order. The challenge is so daunting, in fact, that many executives are at a loss as to where to start.

The good news: you’ve probably already begun this transformation. Look no further than your DevOps efforts.

DevOps as Model for Organizational Change

While improvements in automation have shifted many operational tasks ‘to the left’ (i.e., earlier in the software lifecycle), the real story of DevOps is greater reliance on self-organizing teams.

Self-organizing teams have been a part of the Agile story for almost two decades now, but DevOps extends the principles of self-organization to cross-functional teams. First dev and ops get involved, but soon, testers and security personnel join such teams as well.

Eventually, self-organization extends outside the realm of the techies altogether – to marketing, product teams, and other stakeholders. After all, involving stakeholders in the software lifecycle is also a core Agile principle – yet one that most organizations have long struggled to get right. DevOps moves this ball forward.

The Role of Continuous Quality

Quality has always been essential to software development. Waterfall put quality late in the lifecycle, while Agile pulled it earlier. DevOps, however, takes quality to the next level by leveraging improved automation technologies to make quality a continuous process.

Just as continuous integration and continuous deployment – CI/CD – are essential benefits of DevOps, so is continuous testing.

When you boil it down to its basics, quality isn’t about creating bug-free software. Quality is essentially the alignment of whatever it is you’re building to customer needs. Testers have always understood that software quality depends upon alignment with business requirements.

The continuous testing story gets more interesting when we tie it to Digital Transformation, because Digital Transformation blows up the traditional notion of a ‘business requirement.’

The old way: a business analyst sits down with various stakeholders and assembles a list of requirements that developers must build to and testers must work from.

No longer. The new way: customers drive all aspects of the digitally transformed business, so ‘requirements’ are a never-ending stream of needs, desires, and preferences – often as varied as they are dynamic.

In this context, quality is no longer a matter of checking that some application meets a checklist of specified requirements. Quality becomes an ongoing, continuous effort to ensure the software-empowered organization is adequately dealing with change sufficient to meet the competitive needs of the business overall.

The Intellyx Take

‘Change as core competency’ may sound like some hifalutin vision statement that doesn’t connect to the day-to-day realities of running an organization.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, success with both Digital Transformation and DevOps depends upon organizations that can deal better with change – not just on particular occasions, but as a core part of their culture.

Furthermore, the essential meaning of ‘competency’ requires the alignment of actions with customer demands – in other words, quality. Not ‘check features off a list’ quality, but continuous alignment with dynamic customer desires quality.

As with the rest of the DevOps story, such quality depends upon automation. Digital Transformation may be customer-driven, but it’s software-empowered. Continuous testing is one such enabler.