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The state of DevOps and how to become 'DevOps Determined'

John P. Mello Jr. Freelance writer

What does it take to make DevOps work in the enterprise? A recent study of 420 large European organizations revealed some essentials necessary for a successful DevOps deployment.

Those organizations are discovering that DevOps can deliver both business and technology benefits, according to an IDC report, "The Journey to Enterprise-Scale DevOps: Becoming DevOps Determined". 

Report author Jennifer Thomson, IDC senior research director and accelerated app delivery practice lead, wrote: "These benefits extend beyond faster deployments and higher quality software. European enterprises now cite increased business agility, enhanced customer experience, and more effective business innovation as a direct result of the pivot to DevOps."

Here's the state of enterprise-scale DevOps in Europe, and how to become DevOps Determined.

DevOps is mainstream

With 60% of European organizations now doing DevOps and another 29% planning to adopt DevOps practices in the next 12 months, the methodology has become part of the enterprise mainstream, IDC reported.

In comparison, close to two-thirds of Asia Pacific businesses, excluding Japan, have either deployed or have plans to deploy some degree of continuous integration/continuous delivery and DevOps practices in their organizations. In North America, 80% of businesses are developing and deploying 30% or more of their application estate using DevOps.

But, the new report added, the journey to enterprise-scale DevOps is just beginning. On average, just under a third (31%) of apps are developed with DevOps. "Even organizations that may report high levels of DevOps maturity are likely to be maintaining the bulk of mission-critical applications using traditional development and operations approaches," Thomson wrote.

Yet, many companies are working to scale DevOps, with organizations anticipating that an average of 43% of their application portfolios will be developed via DevOps by 2021.

But many organizations appear to be stuck in "experimentation mode," with scattered pockets of DevOps activity and teams isolated and geographically disperse. They're operating in traditional and hybrid IT environments, and having minimal business impact.

Become DevOps determined—and don't get distracted

The IDC study divided DevOps users into two groups. The "DevOps Determined" group, which developed and deployed more than 30% of their applications with DevOps, and the "DevOps Distracted," which created fewer than 30% of their apps via DevOps. The performance gap between the groups was eye-opening.

DevOps Determined organizations—those that fully embraced DevOps methodologies, along with related tools and technologies—were able to push out innovations 50 to 100 times more frequently than organizations following traditional approaches. Code development and deployment volumes also increased 50%, and lead times to market were cut by 95%.

"To compete and thrive in a digitized economy requires organizations to turn the dial up toward becoming DevOps Determined," the report noted.

To become DevOps Determined, organizations need to take a critical and pragmatic focus on changing their culture, people, technologies, processes, and business strategy to increase both their competitive position and revenue. The report recommended six ways to turn up the dial to become DevOps Determined.

Create an inclusive and collaborative culture

This requires a convergence between key performance indicators and strategy across both IT and the business.

The IDC report found that the DevOps Determined are six times more likely to have cross-functional DevOps teams that take visible ownership of the development, testing, deployment, and maintenance of applications.

Open conversations among teams is critical, said Derek E. Weeks, vice president of Sonatype, an open-source governance platform maker. Those conversations need to be about why new features and capabilities are being introduced into an organization's software. Are we trying to attract new customers? Are we catering to the installed base? Are we serving an internal customer? Are we developing something because it's cool?

"Something can be really cool, but if it doesn't grow the business or protect the installed base or make the company more competitive, then what good is it? That's where the open conversations between the groups can minimize friction in the organization."
Derek E. Weeks

Trust is also important for building a culture fertile for DevOps, said Jim Mercer, research director for the DevOps solutions practice at IDC.

"There has to be a feeling of collaboration between groups without team silos. A lot of DevOps is breaking down those barriers."
Jim Mercer

A lot of DevOps is aligning with the business, too, so you need to break down the walls around the business, as well, he said.

Deliver a phased modernization approach for hyper-agile application architectures

A "big bang" introduction can be risky and will likely produce undesirable results, IDC reported. DevOps Determined organizations phase in change over time as they scale their transformation efforts and modernize their legacy applications to work in the cloud.

"DevOps is about change management, bringing new ways to work within an organization. Change management efforts that work best are more gradual in nature."

People need to understand new processes and build the "right muscle memory around it, and that takes time," Weeks said.

"If you go in one day and say, 'We're doing DevOps today,' people are going to freak out."

Focus on unified automation

Automation and shared tooling are essential ingredients for successful DevOps, the report explained. Moreover, automation will be even more important in the future, when artificial intelligence is integrated into your DevOps processes.

DevOps Determined organizations are twice as likely to have an "automate everything" attitude and use automation tools across their development and operations teams, with agile adoption for continuous iterations, the report concluded. The most mature organizations use multi-cloud technologies for integrated process automation, and combine it with predictive analytics, it added.

DevOps focuses on looking at a value stream of work and eliminating waste, Sonatype's Weeks said.

"If some of that waste in the value stream is the time it takes to get things done, then you can eliminate or reduce waste by automating manual processes."

DevOps is also about speed, and automation is the fastest way to get that speed, IDC's Mercer said.

Chris McFee, the DevOps evangelist at KeyBank, said automation can also contribute to another aspect of DevOps: fast feedback.

"You'll want to embark on automation early because you can get a pretty significant lift for your feedback. A developer can get near-immediate feedback as to whether or not anything broke during a coding cycle."
Chris McFee

What's more, both staff and processes can benefit from automation, said Jayne Groll, CEO of the DevOps Institute, an association for DevOps professionals. 

"The perception is wrong that you can bring in a bunch of open-source tools and magically you've got DevOps."
Jayne Groll

But automating what was previously manual frees people up to do what they do well, "which is critical thinking," she said, and it creates consistency so a quality product is being sent into production.

Develop cohesion across the business and IT

Cohesion requires that executive leadership in both the business and IT act and communicate as one entity. DevOps Determined organizations have strong business leadership teams that focus on optimizing the budgeting process, the report said.

DevOps Determined organizations are more likely to understand where value is being added in the delivery pipeline and to encourage teams to optimize the processes that they control. This allows organizations to understand how fast they are moving, how much value they are generating, and whether they are doing the right things.

The DevOps Determined are three times more likely to have achieved continuous integration with automated build and release management, the report added.

DevOps expert Gene Kim, founder of IT Revolution, which runs the DevOps Enterprise Summit conference, and author of The Phoenix Project, said the challenges go beyond tooling.

"The obstacles to DevOps are beyond the classic technology value streams of architecture, development, operations, QA, and security—and increasingly it's to what degree do you have a trusting relationship with your business partner."
Gene Kim

One of the biggest challenges for IT is understanding what the business wants and when it wants it, said the DevOps Institute's Groll.

"I think that's getting better, as more IT leaders and CIOs are sitting at the strategy table."
—Jayne Groll

Adapting to changing market requirements is something the business needs to help IT understand. Otherwise "IT will march on as it has always marched on," she said.

Concentrate on visualization, dashboards, metrics

Customers increasingly demand a high-touch experience. That requires building instant interaction and iteration into development and operational cycles, providing enhanced visibility with better embedded controls, and the ability to ingest customer feedback.

The drawback to the kind of collaboration and transparency created by visualization, the report added, is that it can leave legacy tools out in the cold. Often they don't have the integrations, visibility, or dashboards for collaboration and transparency.

Dashboards are important, IDC's Mercer said. They should be visible by team members, as well as leadership.

"You need to be careful, though, that you don't put too many metrics up there or you put metrics up there that create disincentives for teams working together."

Build customer feedback mechanisms

Ensure that you build customer feedback mechanisms across the software delivery pipeline to drive innovative new product development.

Feedback loops are especially important when trying to move at the speed of DevOps. You want to get from point A to point B to point C faster, said Sonatype's Weeks. DevOps not only lets you do that, but if you get to point B and things aren't working, you want to understand that's happening very quickly and then work immediately on the thing that went wrong, he said. 

"The faster you can fix it means your feedback loops are working as a continuous improvement mechanism."

Those feedback loops are necessary for more than continuous improvement. They also affect costs. "At the end of the day, it's less expensive to incrementally change things through feedback than it is to wait until a project is near production to do it," KeyBank's McFee said.

"Delivering value is all well and good, but without that feedback, you're going to be at risk of not delivering the right value."

DevOps as part of digital transformation

Digital transformation begins with applications that are built to deliver a truly digital-native experience, the report noted. "The digital economy's requirement to deliver high-quality applications at the speed of the business—or, better still, at the speed of the consumer—is the driving force to more rapidly develop, deploy, and update applications and services," it states.

With the current emphasis on speed to innovation and the delivery of superior customer experiences, agile and DevOps tools and approaches become the default for all enterprises.

"It's no longer about if organizations should adopt DevOps, it is now about getting DevOps right and scaling it across the enterprise."

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