DevOps — an amalgamation of development and operations/systems administration — is an offshoot of the agile software development world which brings together software and company culture. And like all things in software-based companies, this cultural change disrupts the business as a whole. DevOps focuses on automation, streamlined collaboration and focusing on what’s effective, and it’s something that dramatically changes teams and the existing culture.
While the millennials making up most of these initiatives stereotypically thrive on individual acknowledgement and accolades, DevOps celebrates team accomplishments. A DevOps culture is one that has to be built on trust, and which celebrates learning and failing fast. You need to feel you’re in a safe environment for this to happen.
Finally DevOps breaks down software development silos. It’s part of an even larger movement for IT departments to “shift left.” Instead of development “tossing over the wall” to testing and operations, followed by documentation, marketing and sales, all key players are at the table collaborating from the start. It has an emphasis on the phrase Amazon coined years ago of “dogfooding” which has the people creating the software also trying it out, getting a taste of their own food.
So now that you know what is DevOps, how can you take advantage of it to change your company culture for the better?
Six tips for a successful DevOps cultural transformation
- Automate as much as you can. To an outsider, this seems like the antithesis of successful human collaboration, but when you automate any repeatable tasks in development and QA, you create more room for innovation and quality finessing.
- Release early and often. In DevOps, no one person has her finger on the trigger. You continuously release software updates in smaller cycles — often multiple times a day — so anyone can take ownership of smaller pieces of software. Also, by releasing often in conjunction with continuous testing, you fail faster and smaller, so you can learn from and fix those errors rapidly.
- Talk more. This is one of the hardest parts of the DevOps cultural transition. Years of working with a monolithic architecture combined with years of the top-down, segregated mandate of Waterfall project management has led to a lot of distrust, particularly between dev and ops. Make sure there’s a lot of cross-training and meetings where everyone involved is allowed to voice an opinion, contribute pieces of the product backlog and participate in goal setting.
- Get to know motivations. With both millennials and DevOps, purpose becomes more important. And asking why someone reacts a certain way becomes even more so. As a team leader, you need to learn more about your teammates’ motivations. Try playing a game like Moving Motivators, which not only talks about intrinsic motivators, but how they could be affected if you implemented a cultural change.
- Focus on bottlenecks. Companies are used to focusing on the end result — and that often means the financial one. Now, profit is all well and good, but the point of DevOps is to create a culture of efficiency and an emphasis on quality. It’s about overcoming challenges through automation and cultural change. And it’s about collaboration. Any time you hit one of these roadblocks, it’s time to facilitate a discussion among key players to uncover ways to tear down that block in the future.
- Measure it. Like any cultural change, this is perhaps the most challenging part of DevOps, but if you want it to be a permanent transition that gets C-level buy-in, finding ways to measure success is a necessity. This means leveraging all those cool tools to also measure everything. Some things to look for? Increased time to market. Increased uptime. Decreased tech support tickets. And an increase in employee satisfaction.