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DevOps can change business culture, game, set and match

Make it work and make it better CIOs say

DevOps has a significant opportunity to improve business outcomes if adopted across the organisation and well executed, a group of business technology leaders revealed at the recent Ypobo lunch debate that Horizon parent company Icon Business Media partnered in. Business leaders from hospitality, technology services, travel and tourism; as well as healthcare and venture capital joined the debate.

”What do you see as the ultimate goal of DevOps for your organisation?” Ypobo CEO Harry Hayden posed in the debate. “Should it be to make your team more productive, to make software development more productive or should it in fact be to make your business more productive?” All attendees agreed that the name DevOps sounds like a technology department moniker, but that results will only be derived from DevOps if it is adopted as a methodology right across the business. Failure to see it as an enterprise-wide initiative could kill it, one attendee said.

“If DevOps isn’t enabling your business, what is the point. Some parts of the business know the buzzword, but don’t yet understand the process,” a leading business technologist shared. With technology increasingly the first point of customer contact; organisations require their CIOs and technology teams to be increasingly responsive to changing demands and customer behaviour.

“There are businesses that are so frustrated with the pace of change that it can lead to the IT team dropping in new code to satisfy colleagues,” one CIO remarked, adding that this leads to increased errors and a cascade of problems for customers and colleagues down the line. Ypobo added that these scenarios decrease business value whereas DevOps should increase business value.

“How do you eat an elephant? In small chunks.  DevOps should make it work and make it better,” Haydon said of a more iterative way of delivering business change programmes and products.

Ensuring organisations do not miss out on the opportunities to use DevOps across the entire organisation and not just in IT was a theme the debate returned to a number of times.

“Find a stakeholder in the business who is the most frustrated and make them a champion and make sure they see the results,” Matt Smith, Senior DevOps Lead of Ypobo said. Many agreed and added that DevOps requires strong analysis and measurement of outcomes and failures. One CIO said that this enables conversations to elevate in the business and helps ensure the CIO is part of the real business change conversations.

Communications and culture were seen as essential to DevOps success, a CIO remarked how the system works well when project team members are not pulled away from their main position in the organisation.

DevOps succeeds when the organisation has a strong culture of communication and collaboration. CIOs discussed how they had been part of organisations that took a variety of measures to change the culture, including banning employees from eating and drinking at desks through to the less draconian providing a bar. Overall, members of the debate agreed that organisations with a community that came together were able to use methods like DevOps to greater success.

On a more practical level, the debate members agreed that visualisation techniques were key to ensure everyone in the organisation was aware of the changes going through an organisation using DevOps.

“This way members of the organisation can see how important their project is and if they need to have a priority change discussion, they can,” Smith said. One CIO agreed with this statement and added: “The higher you go in an organisation the more of a referee you become”. Another added, “The hardest thing is getting a business to agree what the priorities are and then to communicate it.  You have to work out a way of segmenting your work so that the business understands it.”

Within IT a collaborative culture was also described as critical, especially ensuring that development teams and operational teams are working well together. A number of attendees spoke of development teams handing over products and having no involvement in the longer term support of the product, creating as one CIO observed a tennis match environment with code and products being passed back and forth between development and operational teams.  Another added this creates a tension by design environment in the business between those building new features and those operating a service. Some business leaders like the tension, whilst the attendees to this event talked of a situation of operational teams feeling they “have to support whatever the development teams create” when it is far better if the development teams have an initial ownership of the operations and see through any early doors problems. “No hand grenades are thrown over,” one CIO said. Another leader discussed development teams being on call for support and described examples of organisations seeing code quality improving dramatically as a result to avoid late night support calls.

With a number of industries being disrupted by essentially software based services, think AirBnB and Uber as the poster children of the market change, the attendees discussed  how critical software development had become in their organisations as their technology services grew in importance. One CIO from the leisure sector described how he and his team would like to have a framework for daily releases of code.

“Software is increasingly becoming the way you differentiate your business,” one technology industry leader added.

Four key essentials for successful enterprise DevOps adoption:
1: Make it an enterprise-wide initiative, a horizontal slice rather than a vertical silo.

2: Involve all key stakeholders across the business and give them some quick wins!

3: Align DevOps initiatives to business priorities, justifying all activity against needs.

4: Drive step by step cultural change, built on small meaningful successes.

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About Mark Chillingworth 181 Articles

Mark Chillingworth has over 20 years of journalism and editing experience across all media platforms including online, live events, print magazines and television.

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