How not to kill your DevOps team

How not to kill your DevOps team

Gloss over certain needs and warning signs and your DevOps initiative might just burn your team out. Follow these do's and don'ts to keep making healthy progress.

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June 04, 2018

Do: Give it time

Here’s a quick way to kill your DevOps team: Put a deadline on “DevOps.” Sure, deadlines still have a place in the organization, but there’s no finish line or calendar date for DevOps success.

“DevOps is not a one-off – it requires change across the organization,” Price of Devbridge says. In a sense, changing tools or methodologies is the easy part. “It’s the politics, people and traditional processes of ‘this is how we always done it’ will get in the way sometimes,” Price adds.

DevOps done right is ultimately about continuous evolution and improvement, not a Gantt chart or check-off on someone’s annual review.

This takes time and ongoing effort, all the more so inside organizations that have been quite set in their monolithic ways.

“Some DevOps initiatives fail simply because organizations are unable to get everyone on board with such a huge change,” Reeves of Datical says. “People hate change – whether it’s due to fear, uncertainty, doubt, inherency, or accretion, the reasons to avoid change are numerous.”

Don’t mistake that for an excuse. As Reeves says: “Change, we must.” Everyone has a role to play, but your leadership is especially crucial. ( See our related article, 7 leadership rules for the DevOps age.) If the folks at the top seem reluctant to really embrace the principles and practices of DevOps, that will roll downhill.

“[The change] is not trivial and will take time for people to break from their traditional silo mentality – but the political silos must go, even if that means some leaders need to be retrained,” Price says.

Do not: Hedge your DevOps bet

DevOps is not for dabblers. While you might, say, begin with a particular product team as a sort of proof-of-concept, long-term DevOps success requires an all-in approach or people will begin jumping ship – a sign that your team is hitting a wall.

Price offers some advice: As you standardize on new processes and tools, don’t let people or teams opt out. He gives continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) as an example: If you move to CI/CD tools and workflows, don’t let some software teams opt out.

“The organization must enforce this as table stakes – that any new and any legacy project team use [CI/CD],” Price says. 

In effect, letting individuals or teams opt out of your DevOps processes and tools is akin to creating new silos, new conflicts, and ultimately an unhappy and unproductive team. Sell the benefits and reward the results; don’t just force-feed new things to people.

This extends beyond IT, too, and underscores the need for strong leadership, the proper patience, and full commitment.

“Business leaders need to be retrained as well,” Price says. “The days of ensuring everything but the kitchen sink goes in Release 1 need to be gone.”

Again, this takes time and effort, in doses determined by the particular politics and goals of your company. 

Going all-in with DevOps and ensuring a productive, healthy team may also mean moving away from a project mentality – which often manifests with the kitchen-sink approach – toward a product mentality that introduces new features in smaller, iterative batches.

“The wait for a big­ bang, quarterly, or semi­annual release are a sure sign that DevOps is failing to realize its potential in your organization,” Price says.

Shifting to the product mentality – reflected in smaller, manageable chunks of work that don’t leave your DevOps team constantly running on empty – paves the way to a brighter scenario.

“If the proper CI/CD pipelines are established, along with auto­-scaling up or down of on- ­premises, private cloud, or public cloud environments, then the right products get to market quickly,” Price says. “When products hit the market quickly the feedback loop can be invoked to build better products or feature adds which the customer really wants to result in higher revenue or higher activity [or] traction to your offering.”

And if that’s happening as a result of your DevOps culture, it means you and your team are alive and well.

[ How can you find and retain the best DevOps talent? Download our free eBook: The Ultimate DevOps hiring guide. ]

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