3 problems DevOps won't fix

DevOps offers plenty of efficiencies, but it’s no guarantee of business success. Here are three common challenges that require more than just a solid DevOps strategy
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Infinity lines to illustrate the concept of DevOps

DevOps has been around for more than a decade now, and for companies that aspire to be cloud-native, its benefits are clear: shorter lead time for changes, more frequent production deployments, and greater efficiency in managing failures and recoveries.

But for all the contributions that DevOps has brought to software engineering, it’s not a silver bullet for success in the digital space. Here are three critical problems that DevOps, by itself, can’t fix.

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1. Command-and-control leadership

We’ve seen a big shift in the past few years in how leaders engage with their teams. Gone are the days of command-and-control, where leaders operated under the notion of “I know the solution – I just need my team to deliver faster.”

Now, leadership is moving toward a “delegation and transformation” approach. DevOps cannot simply rely on one mind. With no collaboration or mindful process to solve problems, results will likely be sub-optimal.

[ Want to build a solid DevOps strategy? Read DevOps process: 4 ways to improve. ]

Connect DevOps activities to what the engineers and operations teams have in the works and build a bridge across various functions and groups.

It’s about connecting DevOps activities to what the engineers and operations teams have in the works and building a bridge across various functions and groups. The leader should break down silos and create a vision, inspire people, create a safe environment for sharing, promote collaboration, and co-create solutions to the most critical problems.

2. Lack of a solid product management strategy

DevOps is about speed. Automation in DevOps fosters the speed, consistency, and reliability needed to produce more software more often. This provides a great competitive advantage because good software directly changes how a business operates.

What if you are moving the wrong software to production?

But what if you are moving the wrong software to production? What if you are not addressing your customers’ needs?

A successful product strategy involves much more than simply delivering new features. You need to know your customers, analyze the competitive landscape, design a compelling customer experience, price the product, and so on.

Gartner released a Product Management Framework in 2019, which listed 22 areas to reduce risk and maximize results. DevOps has a direct relationship with one single area: Accelerate time to market. I’m not suggesting that the development process represents less than five percent of the overall challenge, but I am saying that it's not enough. A comprehensive strategy is imperative.

3. Poor application design and development process

A good application design enables an effective DevOps strategy. The technology stack and how the product is organized in terms of components or microservices are key factors in determining how efficiently your teams can work and deploy changes to production. There is a reason most companies are moving away from monoliths: It’s simply too risky to deploy everything at once, multiple times a day.

On the development process side, we’ve seen a significant evolution in software engineering practices throughout the years. It’s not only about agile; it includes everything from product backlog management to how teams should organize themselves.

DevOps won’t solve design issues or fix a bad development process.

For example, if user stories are not broken down into small, meaningful pieces, it’ll be hard to activate value quickly. Visual management is an important tool to help teams gain visibility on what’s going on and organize themselves accordingly. Limiting the work in progress is critical to managing dependencies in order to get things done. DevOps won’t solve design issues or fix a bad development process.

Where DevOps meets true business impact

DevOps may have changed the way we develop and deliver software, but the battle is not over. Many companies are still learning that finishing IT projects on schedule and on budget doesn’t necessarily equal business impact. The real deal goes beyond activating new features on production. Companies need to understand their customers, design and co-create solutions using a diverse perspective, and deploy a quick validation cycle.

DevOps should be blended with a proper organizational structure with shared goals, a new leadership mindset, a comprehensive product management strategy, and an end-to-end development process focused on quick value activation.

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

Daniel is CTO at CI&T and has been delivering digital products for global enterprise companies for more than 18 years. He is responsible for client-facing engineering teams that are driving business impact for clients such as AB InBev, Banco Itau (the 7th largest bank in the world), Coca-Cola, Google, and Johnson & Johnson.


Excellent insights, been working on a project trying to build a devops strategies were you can tell there's a lack of vision or a really bad problem with communication