How to implement enterprise DevOps transformation

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For many, IT is no longer fit for purpose. So, if executives want their IT departments to remain relevant—delivering quickly and flexibly— they must fundamentally morph their conception of IT as-cost-center and recognize it as a strategic business enabler that is pivotal to the success of the company at large.

About the author

Darren Coupland, Executive Vice President at Capgemini & Sogeti.

The technological landscape has completely transformed and will continue to rapidly evolve in the coming years. DevOps, together with an Agile approach, enables organizations to deliver business value and bring innovation continuously to their customers in a reliable way. 

DevOps is not only about continuous integration and delivery, but also how automation can play an important role in delivering value quickly and building in an early feedback loop. Digital-native early adopters developed their DevOps principles via an evolutionary pathway. However, for many existing enterprise organizations, the reality is that they are stuck with years, or decades, of legacy applications and processes that struggle to remain coherent and relevant, while providing diminishing returns. 

These organizations must adopt Agile and DevOps to survive but many struggle to gain the benefits because they must battle with legacy software and organically grown workflows and approvals. These enterprises face a transformational DevOps evolution. However, in order to evolve and implement DevOps at scale, businesses must overcome these three challenges.

Product management

Almost all enterprises have existing product portfolios which are dispersed across fragmented teams, business units and organizations, leading to expensive duplication of systems and efforts, and disjointed customer support. Enterprise organizations have often implemented patchwork solutions of varied commercial software that are incompatible with each other, creating a culture that encourages the delivery of quick results, but often ends up causing catastrophic problems later on. 

Enterprises are used to buying or developing a new product for each new service they bring to market. None of these systems integrate and as an example, cross-sell and upselling services to customers will be more difficult. Even simple tasks like getting a 360 view of a customer are often impossible. These failures often come down to overburdened, undertrained product managers and team members who don’t feel comfortable taking risks to solve systemic issues.

DevOps advocates the formation of long-lived, multidisciplinary teams that are aligned to the delivery of value for the organization (value streams). These multidisciplinary product teams, comprising both Dev and Ops, take full ownership and accountability throughout the entire product lifecycle, from inception to retirement. This contrasts with the more fragmented, project-led approach of traditional IT that requires teams and individuals to take responsibility only for a narrowly defined segment of the product lifecycle— from Build to Release. They then hand the deliverable over to a separate Ops team for the operational lifecycle of the service. 

Shifting from “project” to “product” helps focus a team’s attention and effort towards the product’s goals, which must be measurable outcomes which are geared towards delivering customer value.

Ensuring quality

Ensuring that quality is maintained as the frequency of software releases increases is a priority for Enterprise DevOps teams. How do you move your DevOps teams from ‘counting bugs’ to actually improving the quality of a product? What software development lifecycle (SDLC) interdependencies do you need to be aware of and how do you gain this insight? Breaking down the walls between different DevOps teams, standardizing how they work with policies and frameworks, and using automation to free up Quality Assurance (QA) professionals and testing teams are all integral to addressing the quality within enterprises.

Top performing organizations ask their DevOps teams to deliver this value, with the right quality, at regular and continuous cadences—in other words, they are implementing continuous quality as part of continuous delivery. However, even though many companies expect “quality at speed,” they are only checking for defects before code is deployed. Conversely, leading DevOps organizations are focused on “end-to-end quality”. While they are still doing this with thorough code-vetting procedures, they are also able to validate the quality of what is being delivered before, during and after deployment. These organizations are baking quality processes and procedures into every process so that the features and characteristics of a product are built right the first time.

Distributed teams and remote working

Enabling distributed teams and remote working has become increasingly important in recent years, particularly so in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizations are simultaneously having to adopt remote working practices, while adapting to a radically changed business landscape. Nonetheless, previous challenges of how to enable developers to code, deploy, and collaborate from anywhere remain a constant. 

SaaS-based collaboration platforms bring advanced communications and document sharing tools within reach of every person in the enterprise. In particular, we’ve seen major advances in remote developer productivity tools. Developer productivity platforms, like GitHub for example, enable distributed teams and remote workers to effectively collaborate to achieve their software development goals. DevOps teams need to be equipped with the appropriate collaboration tools, high-speed network access, and the right computing equipment, all while maintaining secure environments.

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced an urgent need to make the transition to remote work, with governments asking people to stay home and avoid going into their offices. This drastically changed ways of working and living. Team members, at all levels of responsibility, in organizations not deemed “mandatory” or “key” services have been required to work from home at some stage during the crisis. As we continue to grapple with the idea of mandated remote working, we’re presented with opportunities to learn from the challenges faced and to focus on growth.

Having the right developer tools is one of the largest drivers of business performance, and collaboration tools are one of the key factors in that toolchain. It’s clear that many companies have underinvested in creating toolchains to support remote development and collaboration, leading to a scramble to adopt patchwork solutions that will have major repercussions later on.

DevOps can be a dramatic cultural shift for any organization. Most enterprise organizations need to transform their existing people, processes and technologies in order adopt DevOps. The most successful DevOps enterprises see Development and IT as part of the business and aligned to products and customer needs. 

Development and IT are not operating in a silo which serves the business, they are at the heart of the business. his enables the most successful DevOps enterprises to get product ideas to market faster, without sacrificing the stability or security of their production systems. Meaning they are more agile and ready to adapt quicker to the most challenging events and become leaders in market disruption.

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Darren Coupland, Executive Vice President at Capgemini & Sogeti.