How do you create the right DevOps culture in your organization?


DevOps seems to be the buzzword of the day, with more and more software companies looking for ways to foster a DevOps culture within their organization. DevOps refers to principles and practices that are aimed at integrating the functions of software development and operations teams so that time to market is reduced, end-to-end responsibility for applications becomes the norm, and the development process becomes more flexible and refined. By involving software developers in the deployment and maintenance of the applications they develop, processes become more efficient, and accountability becomes king. However, many managers focus on upgrading tools and programs that foster DevOps without implementing cultural changes that are essential for DevOps to succeed. Here’s what you need to do to create a successful DevOps culture in your organization.

1. Promote communication and collaboration

Breaking down silos is one of the first steps any DevOps manager needs to take, and this ensures that teams interact with each other outside of the systems of communication that are too often hierarchical and indirect. You need to kickstart conversations between the teams that you plan to integrate about resources, scheduling, requirements, features, and execution and ensure that they are on the same page about the product they will be responsible for. Discussions lead to valuable insights and inputs into the development process, allowing teams to avoid certain issues and inefficiencies right from the get-go. Constantly routing conversations through higher-ups is bureaucratic and inefficient and can lead to unnecessary delays in a project.

2. Start small, but not too small

If you’ve decided to transition to a DevOps culture, it’s important not to overwhelm yourself or your team with a sudden, tumultuous change. Explore the DevOps process with a project of manageable size and constantly field feedback from team members along the way. Your pilot project should be important enough to convince higher-ups of the effectiveness of the new culture, but not so big that you’re overwhelmed with unprecedented setbacks and difficulties while rolling out the new process.

3. Get leadership on board

Having company executives who endorse this transition to DevOps is important for the success of its implementation. You’ll face less resistance from both team members and higher-ups when everyone is convinced that this is a change that is here to stay. Rather than starting from the bottom-up, a top-down approach to initiating a DevOps culture is the ideal way to ensure that teams experience smooth integration with little opposition from skeptical bosses. Choosing your pilot project well may be key to this, as the success of your first project that implements DevOps principles can be a better advocate for you than any well-made speech or PowerPoint presentation.

4. Set common goals

As silos break down and teams are brought in contact with each other, outline clear objectives for everyone involved so that development and operations teams can align their goals. Customer satisfaction should be the ultimate aim of all teams involved so that changing demands are quickly met, new requirements are filled in, and customer complaints are immediately addressed and resolved. With everyone pooling their skill-sets and resources to work toward an overarching aim, development becomes more streamlined and much more efficient. A DevOps culture is impossible without collaboration.

5. Constantly make improvements

With previously isolated teams working in tandem on applications, flexibility is introduced into the work culture. Greater communication allows for faster adjustments in the processes of development, deployment, and management of products.

With everyone pooling their skill-sets and resources to work toward an overarching aim, development becomes more streamlined and much more efficient. A DevOps culture is impossible without collaboration.

This also helps employees find ways to constantly improve their systems and increase efficiency. As customer needs diversify, competitors innovate, and regulations change, teams need to work together to catch up to changing product requirements and environments. There is no stagnation in a DevOps culture, as processes are constantly being upgraded and improved, and cutting-edge tools become easier to introduce to employees.

6. Automation is key to DevOps culture

A fundamental aspect of DevOps culture is automation as it supports continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines that allow applications to be developed and deployed efficiently. Automating important processes like building new systems, deploying software, testing for bugs and security issues, and infrastructure provisioning can allow DevOps teams to deliver applications and software to customers without much delay. Automation allows applications to be deployed quickly, reliably, and safely by machines which have been programmed with all the steps involved in a deployment.

7. Encourage exploration

DevOps culture pushes employees out of their comfort zones and beyond their skillsets and encourages them to try new things, learn new skills, and be curious about processes they are not traditionally responsible for. Fostering a DevOps culture requires team members to be willing to learn about stages in product development that they may have not been directly involved with in the past. End-to-end responsibility for an application is an essential part of DevOps culture, and team members discover that they can streamline their own tasks by understanding how they impact other’s tasks down the line.

8. Allow room for failure

Perhaps the biggest cultural change that organizations need to effect if they are to adopt DevOps is to discard their standards that demand perfect results every single time. Unless management is willing to reward creativity and innovation and embrace the uncertainty and risk of failure that these bring, they will not be able to shift toward a DevOps organizational culture. Creativity and innovation are essential for teams to have a competitive edge with customers, and discouraging experimentation of any sort can cause teams to be stuck with inefficient systems and hierarchies that impede the very work they claim to manage. If organizations don’t learn to get comfortable with failed ventures, they may be left behind in the dust.

Unless management is willing to reward creativity and innovation and embrace the uncertainty and risk of failure that these bring, they will not be able to shift toward a DevOps organizational culture.

9. Expect end-to-end responsibility for code

It’s easy for developers to relinquish responsibility for code they’ve written once it’s been passed into the hands of the operations team, who then deploy and manage it. However, DevOps ensures that these roles and responsibilities are no longer completely distinct from one another. Development and operations groups are expected to collaborate on deliverables from the beginning of a project to its delivery, and even beyond that, on maintaining the product and resolving any client issues or requests. Ensuring end-to-end responsibility for products is essential in an integrated team environment. Rather than increasing the burden on employees, DevOps culture distributes responsibilities to ensure timely delivery, fewer issues, and faster implementation of client requests.

10. Share knowledge

Finally, the most important step in integrating teams is to have them pass on what they’ve learned, their understanding of the systems they use, and even their skill-sets to other team members. Each team member should ideally have a comprehensive knowledge of the processes that the applications they develop go through. Since employees work together toward a common goal, the ability to stop at any step of the process can reduce dependencies and promote CI/CD pipelines. The collaborative process not only promotes efficiency, but it also empowers employees to challenge themselves and push the boundaries of their areas of expertise.

DevOps culture: Embrace the organizational changes

It’s easy to jump on the DevOps bandwagon without equipping your teams with the tools they need or creating an environment that promotes a DevOps culture. Initiating a comprehensive organizational change can be painful at first, but you will reap lasting benefits if you work hard to affect the right kind of cultural change.

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