Is DevOps only for startups and the Internet native Unicorns? Can it be used in a large corporate environment with legacy systems?
We hear about the DevOps success stories and many wonder how they can get the benefits. First let’s talk about what DevOps is. In the beginning it was a reaction to the problems that occur when one group of people develop code, and another group of people should operate that code in production. Often you get code with bugs that is only discovered in production and outages caused by the operations team not knowing the code at all, or well enough. I guess that you might recognize this situation from both small and big companies.
DevOps was simply a call to work closer together between these two groups. However, when that collaboration started to take off, a whole new field of automation, measuring and learning took off. One could say that DevOps is to software development what Lean was to manufacturing. Everyone is suddenly interested in delivering the whole product.
Automation in combination with Cloud Computing soon led to the point where development teams could manage their whole solution, from coding to automated deployment to production and operations. In a startup setting you would typically have one team that took care of the whole product that the company was offering. By measuring what happens in the product the team can make experiments on what they can improve to better fit the markets need.
In larger companies there is almost always some sort of legacy: way of working, organisational structure, software systems, people and so on. Sometimes it can appear impossible to work in the “DevOps way”. The rejection of DevOps is almost like someone who hasn’t exercised in a while and think that doing a cross fit session would be impossible, it wouldn’t work here. The truth is that it will not work immediately, it’s not an overnight transformation. Neither getting a fit body through exercise nor getting an organisation fit for the market through DevOps work. It starts out with small steps and the process will take time, counted in months and possibly years.
But here’s the thing, the big companies are the ones that have the most to gain from DevOps. Apparently they have market penetration enough to support the chaotic or slumbering organisation they have today. With DevOps and the larger systems thinking that comes with frameworks like SAFe they could free up a lot of potential that could either trickle down to the bottom line or be reinvested in strengthening their market position, or both.
One of the big challenges is trying to get a coordinated enough transformation to see the benefits before the momentum is lost. Spontaneous DevOps appear here and there in all organisations, spurred by some enthusiastic team members. But without the support of the organisation around them their efforts will soon be flushed out by the immune system of the legacy organisation. Everyone involved needs to be trained in how to support the new age of end to end responsible teams. That’s where DevOps becomes a larger initiative in the organisation and it blends with other Lean/Agile/Customer focused currents.
Do you want to learn more about how to apply DevOps in your company? I’m very happy to be able to co-teach the SAFe DevOps class with Carl Starendal who in my mind is one of the most knowledgeable persons in Lean/Agile Enterprise transformations in Europe. Check out our upcoming SAFe DevOps class in Stockholm.