Agile vs. DevOps: What’s the difference?

Agile vs. DevOps: What’s the difference?

Agile and DevOps have a shared past. That leads to some lingering misunderstandings about the terms

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“Agile was focused squarely on development, and to a lesser extent, testing. Once the code was handed off to operations to deploy, the developers were no longer involved,” Achard says. “DevOps, on the other hand, is ‘holistic.’ It does not matter if your code is in development, QA, or a production server. It is your code, and you need to holistically consider all the environmental factors and ensure the system is performing as you designed.”

Indeed, Agile development practices can, as Gamblin points out, still be highly productive within a DevOps team. But done right, DevOps tends to foster a more inclusive, wider-spreading culture. In some organizations, this culture now encompasses other teams and roles that often remained siloed in DevOps’ early days, such as security (hence the rise of DevSecOps). Some DevOps leaders and practitioners similarly encourage the spread of DevOps culture to other departments outside of IT entirely.

[ Learn more: How to build a strong DevSecOps culture: 5 tips ]

For some additional color around the differences, here’s how Gamblin defines the two terms:

“Agile teams can be viewed as the ‘special forces’ of a development organization.”

Agile: “Agile development is just the creation of a small and streamlined team that is empowered to go out and build meaningful software, and systems that provide instant value to the company with as few obstructions as possible. Agile teams can be viewed as the ‘special forces’ of a development organization that are given a single objective and work doggedly towards the completion of that goal.”

“DevOps should be seen as a bridge that lets a team collaboratively work across departments.”

DevOps: “DevOps should be seen as a bridge that lets a team collaboratively work across departments and completely focus on the goal of producing the best technical project as quickly as possible. Basically, this is like ‘flattening’ a complex organization. Instead of going through a lengthy ticketing and provisioning process, it can simplify that down to something as easy as a Slack message saying, ‘Andy, I need a new beta webserver spun up,’ or even empowering the developer to do that herself.”

[ Want a deeper dive on DevOps? Check out our 10 DevOps must-reads ]

In the end: More speed

If you do find yourself having to clarify the lines between Agile and DevOps, it can be helpful to remember that the difference is ultimately about scope. With Agile, it’s usually far more specific, whereas with DevOps the scope could be nearly limitless.

It’s also helpful to remember that any lingering confusion about the two terms actually derives from a good place.

“While DevOps and Agile have different uses and implementations, they both have the intention of moving the modern enterprise from a centralized control model to a more efficient model that distributes responsibilities to teams and maximizes opportunities to be responsive and innovative,” Gamblin says.

When you do that, it almost doesn’t matter what you call it.

[ What do great agile leaders do differently? Read How to be a stronger DevOps leader: 9 tips. ]


Agile is a fad. DevOps is a

Agile is a fad. DevOps is a fad on top of a fad.


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