What DevOps Means to a CIO: Transform, Build and Measure

Darryl McKinnon, Vice President & Managing Director, APJ

Darryl McKinnon, Vice President & Managing Director, APJ

With software driving every business now, it’s creating disjointed, and sometimes incompatible, projects inside companies. Simultaneously, the speed at which companies can deploy new software has become inextricably linked to customer acquisition and retention, and the torrents of change are pushing CIOs to transform IT so that the business can operate like an innovative and fast-moving software organisation.

CIOs today must not only empower the business with technology to propel it past competitors and beyond their reach but also evaluate changes to processes and infrastructure to allow the flexibility that the software-driven world now needs. Underpinning all of this is the need to implement a successful DevOps strategy, where development and operations team come together to understand each other’s concerns and views to ensure the delivery of resilient software products at a fast pace in an automated and cohesive manner.

As CIOs make the transition from old bureaucratic ways to DevOps, how can they fully utilise the potential of this practice?

Understanding what modern DevOps potential is

Many traditional IT organisations are not built for the new IT reality. In fact, they are organised around functions instead of business value, and hence are siloed. DevOps, however, is a community of practice and set of principles, not fixed methodology or process. It aims to break down these silos to get everyone working towards the same business goal.

What really sets DevOps apart today is the ‘infrastructure as code’ philosophy. When you describe all infrastructure configurations and changes in code, you can version that code, review, integrate, test and deploy it with the same tools your organisation uses for software. This makes it much easier for infrastructure and development engineers to collaborate. IT can then shift away from its traditional role of gatekeeper to the new role of enabler, by creating self-service portals for developers and testers.

DevOps hence integrates the configuration and deployment of applications as part of the development as opposed to a separate operational step. By changing the way that different parts of the IT group operate, DevOps helps improve the eventual outcomes for the organisation by making the IT assets more efficient and more effective.

The journey begins when CIOs review existing business procedures and delivery pipelines, identifying objectives of what DevOps strategy should achieve. Once that has been established, here are three steps that are essential to drive DevOps success.

1. Transform organisational culture to a pattern of ongoing communication, sharing and trust between individuals and teams

The success of DevOps rests on the ability of teams to collaborate across multiple functional boundaries. Organisations who understand DevOps reap greater efficiencies as they acknowledge the importance of collaboration. This was also revealed in Puppet’s State of DevOps Report 2018, where 41percent of highly evolved teams are collaborating to automate services for broad use versus only 13percent of those in less evolved teams.

Perhaps the hardest part about DevOps is the culture change – CIOs are aware that by implementing these practices, they are challenging traditional bureaucratic processes, and tearing down boundaries by giving people the autonomy to build, validate and deliver applications. Despite this, CIOs must continue to recognise the importance of DevOps as a tool to empower and engender a culture of collaboration and learning between individuals and teams to drive holistic automation.

2. Build a system that will reduce complexity and chaos

Once the whole organisation is on board, CIOs will need to focus on simplifying processes together with the DevOps team. Most teams have a lot of complexity in their systems at the outset of their DevOps journey and that complexity creates chaos. CIOs need to know that version control is vital to further progress for both development and operations teams. Its adoption is the first step towards continuous integration and continuous delivery, which are required for faster, more reliable delivery of high-quality software

CIOs must also be sensitive to the pressure that the operations team will face in adopting agile development practices. They must push for changes to IT operations to help alleviate the pressure and normalising the technology stack is one change. Eliminating redundant systems and standardising on a smaller set of operating systems clears the way for the ops team to adopt consistent automation and management patterns, saving time on patching, tuning, upgrading and troubleshooting various systems.

As CIOs, there is a need to motivate internal teams to decide upon the technologies that will become the standard for the organisation, while bearing into mind the ease for cross team collaboration and sharing. De-siloing responsibilities and knowledge is a core DevOps value, and building a system that breaks down boundaries will help establish sharing as a fundamental cultural value that also reduces complexity and chaos for the organisation.

3. Measure digital transformation successes

DevOps practices are highly correlated with high IT performance and better business results. Done well, DevOps is a saviour that that can influence the business culturally, and help companies be more agile. Hence, for CIOs considering DevOps as part of the transformation journey, it’s important to know how likely it is to deliver success.

According to our survey, executives had a rosier view of their DevOps progress than the teams they manage. 44percent of C-suite respondents believe that security policy configurations are automated versus 36percent at the team level. Additionally, 59percent of C-suite respondents believe their organisation automates incident responses versus 36 percent at the team level.

The disconnect between executives and their team members reveals an incomplete understanding of DevOps progress and impact, oftentimes caused by the lack of performance measurements. This is aligned to our experience where we find many organisations lacking a basic level of visibility into the performance of their DevOps teams and processes. This lack of insight leads to the inability to clearly articulate to the executive leadership team the status of new processes or solutions aside from “things are better”.

With more concrete insights, teams can dive into their DevOps processes and clearly answer questions that help the company and executive leadership team understand core business functionality around quality, business value and how the team can go faster.

As a CIO, DevOps is probably one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal, fundamentally altering how people work together to deliver business transformation. With the market in ASEAN expected to reach $131.1m by 2022 with a compound annual growth rate of 28percent according to IDC, it’s high time CIOs nip these DevOps challenges in the bud to transform how their organisation manage and improve the efficiency of their IT assets.

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