How to scale DevOps: 10 expert tips

How to scale DevOps: 10 expert tips

Doing DevOps and doing it at scale are two very different things. Here’s how to push past barriers to wider success

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6. Optimize for happy teams

Tom Clark, head of common platform, ITV plc: “You can do anything, but not everything – so think big, start small, and iterate quickly. Over time, you’ll build a reputation for success, which will tempt more groups to adopt your practices. Finally, don’t get distracted trying to build high-performing teams; instead, optimize them for happiness and you’ll eventually get high performance as a side effect.” 

7. Remember Conway’s Law and Kanban boards

Logan Daigle, director of DevOps strategy and delivery, CollabNet VersionOne: “We must understand the implication(s) of Conway’s Law on the enterprise. Conway’s Law states (in my own words) that the products we build and the processes we use to build them (including DevOps) will be structured like the organization.”

If the organization is highly siloed and has many handoffs for planning, building, and releasing software, the success of scaling will be non-existent or short-lived. If the organization chooses to build and operate cross-functional teams around products that are funded to be market-oriented, there’s a much better chance of scaling to success.  

“The other important aspect of successful scaling is to make all of the work that is in progress (WIP) visible on Kanban boards. If the people in the enterprise have a place to go to see this, it enables a lot of collaboration that is good for scaling.”

8. Look for organizational scar tissue

Manuel Pais, DevOps consultant and co-author of "Team Topologies": “A suboptimal approach when trying to expand DevOps practices beyond Dev and Ops is to try to directly apply the practices to other functions. While that can undoubtedly bring some benefits (e.g., for automating manual controls), we can uncover orders of magnitude higher gains if we start by understanding the delivery and feedback processes.”

If we identify organizational scar tissue, meaning procedures and controls that have been implemented in response to past incidents but that no longer make sense (due to changes in product, technology, or processes), then we should remove or simplify them rather than automate an inefficient or unnecessary process.”

9. Don’t do 31 flavors of DevOps

Antony Edwards, COO, Eggplant: “DevOps is a very vague term, and so when people roll out DevOps, it’s a custom version. The biggest anti-pattern in organizations is that they roll out 20 different versions of DevOps that don’t work well together. You can’t have three different dev teams with different interfaces between product management and dev, and you can’t have different expectations of what gets moved into staging how to process feedback. If you try to operate in this manner, DevOps will never scale.”

[ Read also: 8 principles to achieve DevOps at scale. ]

10. Evangelize the value to the business

Newman: “Spread ‘recognition of value.’ Learn to and focus on effectively communicating the value of what you do. DevOps practices provide incredible time-saving and cost-saving values (think: less downtime, quick Mean Time To Restore), and teams need to highlight (and evangelize) how these initiatives are critical to the success of the business. This will help with the adoption of DevOps practices to larger involved communities and create a larger impact across the organization.”

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


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