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Costs key to building a strong DevOps business case

John Jeremiah Evangelist, GitLab

You can't derive business value from DevOps simply by buying the right tools, and you certainly can't buy your way to DevOps success. You have to do the work, and the place to start is with a solid DevOps business case that accounts for all the costs involved. That means taking into account all the time, money, and other resources required as you follow each step in the process. Here's how to get started.

Change the culture

DevOps requires a transformation of both culture and approach for development and operations groups. To do that, you need to establish a culture of trust. That's not a trivial transformation to undertake, considering that for the past several decades development and operations teams have lived as separate tribes with sometimes conflicting goals and objectives. The former focused on delivering innovation and change, while the latter focused on protecting availability and keeping costs in check. The gradual erosion of trust between the two teams presents an obstacle to rapid business innovation.

To remedy that, you need to invest in an effort to change the way people see each other, their work, and the culture. To do that, you'll need to budget for employee training, team building initiatives, and a prolonged communications effort. You don't have to change the whole culture at once, though. Start small, achieve key victories, and then build upon your successes. Don't attempt to change the entire organization: Focus on the teams and areas where velocity and speed are essential.

Automate everywhere

Manual tasks and human intervention are sources of errors and variability. To achieve velocity and consistency in your development projects, you need to invest in technology and automation. Understand what investments you'll need to make in build automation, deployment automation, testing automation, and reporting automation to ensure that you have the appropriate feedback and insights everywhere.

Budget both time and dollars for technology that can streamline and accelerate delivery. While many DevOps projects are heavily driven by open source tools, you can't overlook the costs incurred in configuring, supporting, and nurturing these "free" tools in your environment. If you use commercially available DevOps-related products, be sure that what you're buying will meet your specific needs. There's no right answer to the question of whether or not to use open source or commercial tools, but you do need something. Doing without is the wrong choice.

Consider your architecture

When you hear about the typical examples of DevOps success at leading companies like Amazon and Facebook, realize that they have an advantage over traditional enterprise IT teams: They can build relatively new systems and DevOps capabilities into their applications because they don't have legacy systems to worry about.

You, however, may need to address legacy architecture and figure out how to adapt and evolve it to support faster business innovation. To do that, you'll need to plan for investments in service-oriented architecture, API management and integration work.

Plan for the journey

Adopting DevOps in your enterprise is neither a simple nor a short-term project. It takes a long-term effort to drive continuous improvement of development and delivery practices. When planning your DevOps business case, be sure to account for an ongoing improvement effort that evaluates the work in progress as well as any bottlenecks that will have an impact on delivery. Account for the time required, and set reasonable expectations for how long the effort will take. Start with small teams to help your organization learn and accumulate wins.

As an IT leader, your job is to build a solid DevOps business case

DevOps isn't a magic solution. There's no secret tool, and the core concepts aren't especially new. What's new for IT is the concept of shared understanding between development and operations and the realization that IT is now vital to the success and health of the business.

IT leaders can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while the business value of IT gets wasted in silos that create barriers to innovation. As an IT leader, your job is to build a solid DevOps business case, champion it, and enable and lead the change. IT leaders are the new business leaders, and the opportunity is yours.

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