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How DevOps is changing services (for the better)

DevOps has become one of the hottest topics in technology, and it’s also one of the most loaded terms. That tends to happen when something is a multi-billion dollar market. Almost every large cloud vendor is pushing some kind of DevOps story and there are hundreds of DevOps products on the market promising to improve software quality and make life easier for developers.

However, DevOps professionals like myself will tell you that DevOps is less of a technology or toolset and more of a methodology and mindset. It’s a concept that can apply equally to IT and software development as it can to people management and creative services. And it benefits far more than just software developers.

This is because DevOps is about improving outcomes. More specifically, it’s about delivering more value and higher quality outcomes, faster.

DevOps is about improving outcomes — delivering more value and higher quality outcomes, faster.

I’ve seen this first hand across my career. First at Appirio, where I consulted with Fortune 100 customers and eventually served as a product manager for Appirio’s Cloud Management Center (the DevOps inspired platform that all Appirians used to deliver projects). Then at 7Summits, where I was a Business Architect at Google Cloud coordinating work across five teams and multiple systems integrators. And most recently in my current role as a product leader at Copado, a DevOps platform company.

DevOps methodologies and concepts have served me well throughout each of these roles, but it’s clear to me that they are playing an even greater role in the cloud’s third wave for product companies as well as service providers.

So what is DevOps…exactly?

DevOps is a combination of practices, processes, organizational structures, culture change, and automated tools. It seeks to improve collaboration between teams, identify and reduce bottlenecks in the system, and to create greater alignment between development and operations. Below is a common view of the DevOps infinity loop.

While many think of DevOps as purely a set of tools, its emphasis is in fact on helping the people who work across these functions.

What’s driving the need for DevOps NOW?

Increasing efficiency and improving outcomes is always on a leader’s list of priorities, but there are a few trends happening right now in technology that are making DevOps more of a necessity.

The rise of multi-cloud/hybrid IT environments. IT environments are getting more complex, not less — especially at the enterprise level. IT teams are working across cloud and on-premise environments, and across multiple cloud applications that serve different business requirements. This requires new processes and tools to integrate and centrally manage this kind of complexity.

The workforce is remote and distributed. When I was at Appirio in 2013, we were one of the few services companies that didn’t require people to come into an office. Today, the new normal is remote teams spread across multiple time zones. While development teams have gotten used to working with international delivery centers over the last few decades, even those teams were primarily centralized in one location. Now everyone is distributed everywhere.

The pace of innovation. It used to be that new products and features were released every 12 to 18 months. When SaaS came onto the scene, that moved to every 3 months. Now, with cloud platforms to build on and a business environment that is constantly changing, development and release cycles need to be continuous in order to keep up with demand.

These trends are spawning a range of downstream effects — some good, some bad. They’re also prompting leaders to figure out a better, faster, more seamless way to manage software delivery across different platforms, different tools, and different teams.

Why services leaders should care about DevOps

When done right, DevOps methodologies and tools can have a huge impact on a services organization. Here are just a few examples:

Scale global, distributed teams more effectively. Value Stream Management, a component of DevOps, can not only improve collaboration and reduce friction between distributed teams, it can also give leaders greater visibility across their entire portfolio. It can identify areas that are costing the organization time and money, and help new team members get up and running faster.

Increase quality and reduce failed releases. DevOps can help you manage the complexity of enterprise environments and help teams more easily deliver features and fixes across complex IT environments. With tooling like version control, automated testing, and monitoring built into your deployment processes, you can reduce the number of failed releases.

Strengthen your IP and product capabilities. Treating the services you deliver as productized, repeatable offerings rather than custom one-off projects can decrease delivery time and increase margins. The ability to identify, log and reuse artifacts from each engagement is a great way to build your own asset library.

Increase the speed at which you deliver value to customers. With more efficient processes and automated tooling, you can deliver more in a shorter amount of time. This can be a differentiator and lead to happier customers. Automating boring tasks and minimizing friction in the process will also help you retain employees, which is something every company needs to be thinking about these days.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve made a case for why you don’t have to be a product company to implement DevOps. In fact, services companies can experience some of the greatest benefits, and this doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

Some firms are already further along than others, with digital engineering firms probably the furthest along. Some are just beginning to train their teams on these processes and some are still sorting it out, with lots of manual processes across the software lifecycle.

No matter where you stand on the maturity curve, I challenge you to see where you can embed the DevOps mindset within your organization.

No matter where you stand on the maturity curve, I challenge you to see where you can embed the DevOps mindset within your organization. The DevOps Institute offers some great training and certification options, and recently released its third annual report on which DevOps skills are most in-demand.

It’s never too late, and in fact, now might be the perfect time.

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