Why DevOps matter

For years, the argument has gone back and forth — information technology matters, but doesn’t matter. Powerful technology has become cheap and ubiquitous, but the problem is that it has become cheap and ubiquitous to everyone.

So where’s the competitive advantage in IT?


Photo: Joe McKendrick

Turn to DevOps, which organizes software development and delivery into rapid delivery to the business, can actually help organizations differentiate themselves from the competition. This comes at the urging of Nicole Forsgren and Jez Humble, both with DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) in a recent podcast hosted by Andreessen Horowitz. “It seems obvious — developing and delivering software with speed and stability drives things like profitability, productivity, market share,” says Forsgren. “Except we have decades of research showing the technology does not drive organizational performance. It doesn’t drive ROI.”

The point of distinction comes from how companies tie together that technology process and culture through DevOps, Forsgren explains. “You still need development, you still need tests, you still need QA, you still need operations, you still need to deal with technical debt, you still need to deal with re-architecting really difficult large monolithic code bases,” says Forsgren. “What DevOps enables you to do is to find the problems, address them quickly, move forward.”

Moving products and services quickly into the market often means risking quality. However, having a well-organized DevOps in place means processes can be accelerated with proper checks and balances along the way. “If you take one thing away from DevOps, high-performing companies don’t make those trade-offs,” says Humble, citing DORA’s research. “They’re not going fast and breaking things, they’re going fast and making more stable, more high-quality systems.”

Agile development approaches were an important step toward aligning development teams with their businesses. However, it has been difficult to scale agile. “Agile was meant for development, it speeds up development,” says Forsgren. “But then you have to hand it over, and especially infrastructure, and IT operations — what happens when we get there? DevOps, originally called agile system administration, came out of development and operations. And it’s not just dev and ops, it’s the bookends of this entire process.”

DevOps doesn’t just arise from the ether — it requires guidance from above. “DevOps sort of started as a grassroots movement, but right now, we’re seeing roles like VP and CTO being really impactful,” Forsgren says. This is “because they can set the vision for an organization but also in part because they have resources that they can dedicate to this.”

Truly visionary DevOps proponents have five common traits, she adds. “These five characteristics are vision, intellectual stimulation, inspirational communication, supportive leadership, and personal recognition. We recommend absolutely investing in the technology. Also, invest in leadership in your people because that can really help drive your transformation home.”

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