A Culture-Driven Approach to DevOps Transformation

source: devops.com

One of the most challenging aspects of a DevOps transformation isn’t automating and overhauling technology. The biggest challenge of DevOps is changing an organization’s culture and purpose. You can’t “buy a DevOps.” DevOps demands the involvement of people, process and tools working together.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many companies get carried away with the latest shiny object and neglect the people aspect. So, the end results they were expecting do not come to fruition. Research from Google Cloud and Harvard Business Review supports the importance of a people-first DevOps strategy. This research confirms DevOps transformation projects are worthless without addressing the people aspect.

Of course, such large-scale transitions are difficult. People have to put their reputations on the line to sell the transformation. Employees may become stressed or resist the cultural changes that come with a DevOps transformation. Therefore, communication throughout the entire transformation must be your primary goal. Communication includes measuring the effectiveness of the transformation vision and goals and sharing that information with your team. Keeping them informed ensures they understand the critical role they play in this vision, as well as the value of their work. These measurements need to also show how participation in change translates to value for the business.

Here are some best practices for prioritizing people and process when working through your DevOps transformation.

Communicate Every Step of the Way

It’s important to establish a level of empathy for your employees and understand exactly how changes will affect them. Employees’ professional identities develop over many years, and you can’t expect them to change overnight. Here are some questions your employees are wondering about:

  • What happens to my job when we have to start adhering to this new process?
  • Will I lose my job when all this automation is implemented?
  • How am I going to learn the skills to be effective and contribute to this new way of working?

Expect their questions and listen for more areas of concern. Be proactive about sharing both the questions and the answers with everyone.

It’s critical that you keep an open channel of communication with your employees to help them through this change. Don’t view this as an add-on exercise–it should be the cornerstone. Focus on communication, and devote time to your staff, so they are completely integrated into the new DevOps process.

Your communication strategy needs to include all the teams involved with application delivery. Hold regular meetings across all departments, not only development and operations teams. Think about how the DevOps transformation impacts departments such as marketing, human resources and finance. What challenges have they run into? Have there been any negative impacts thus far? Listening and addressing each issue in real time will ensure the transformation is moving in the right direction.

Measure What Matters

When it comes to measuring your success, don’t worry about what other companies may be doing. The metrics that matter are the ones that support your ultimate business goal, which in this case is a better software delivery process.

Identifying metrics for your business demands you understand how your company’s process drives behavior. Ask questions such as: What corners were cut to get from development to production on time? Did meeting this deadline impact the timelines and performance of other teams and the quality of other applications?

Meaningful metrics allow you better insight into your processes in the real world. And meaningful metrics help determine whether your pipeline is moving in the right direction to deliver high-quality, high-value software.

Remember those regular meetings I mentioned earlier? These are also a great time to focus on metrics so employees understand how their work impacts the business. It’s also an opportunity to hear what’s happening on the ground in the delivery pipeline. This real-world information can determine progress, as well as test if the right metrics are being tracked.


A DevOps transformation requires changes to staffing, organizational structure, performance and culture. As a result, the success of your transformation involves moving the entire organization forward—building a strong culture ensures all people at all levels are invested in it. Measuring and communicating results must be the standard for every release you do.

DevOps can fundamentally change any organization for the good. By continually communicating a clear vision of the goals and expectations of your transformation, people will feel confident they are on a winning track.

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