6 critical steps for optimizing DevOps, Agile, and Cloud
By Bradley Clerkin, CTO
You need the right road map to get you where you want to go, especially when traveling through challenging terrain.
Completing a digital transformation to add DevOps, Agile, and Cloud to your IT operating model is as challenging and complex as it gets (check out our article on Anti-Patterns to learn why). For years, we at BreakFree Solutions have been guiding enterprises through this challenge by equipping leaders with our recommended approach, or road map, for DevOps/Agile/Cloud adoption.
To explain the process, we lay out a 6-step plan; however, keep in mind that with terrain as volatile as the digital landscape can be, it's not as simple as completing one phase and moving on to the next. Sometimes teams must do phases in parallel, and every organization has unique needs and goals, which will cause some teams to stay in phases longer than others. But, regardless of individual circumstances, we continually see enterprises achieve successful digital transformations through this approach.
For this roadmap, we'll be using DevOps as the prime example, but you could swap DevOps for Agile or Cloud, and the approach would primarily be the same.
Leadership, from the business and IT side, must declare a few things to get everyone aligned on how this digital transformation will occur.
First, they must declare that they will not fall into the most common anti-patterns (thinking DevOps is owned by one team, can be bought, can be hired, can be trained into, is just for developers, or should be attained by adopting a "full-scale" approach).
Next, leadership must declare that the focus is on digital outcomes more than any other factor. These digital outcomes should align with the profit center, meaning leadership should be able to point to how these digital outcomes will generate new profits.
Any IT organization can apply incredible DevOps techniques to their work, investing in the most impressive tools the DevOps toolchain offers. Yet, none of that matters if the organization doesn't have a plan for how that DevOps technology will help them achieve their desired digital outcomes.
If you can't point to digital outcomes that the business, or IT, believes will generate new profits and digital channels, then you should not aim to do a digital transformation. There's no moving forward until you have this declared.
Remember, companies don't save money through digital transformation — you don't do it to cut costs. A digital transformation is an investment. Your investment is more likely to pay off if you have a plan around your digital outcomes for generating new business. That way, you've fully hedged your bet.
A focus on digital outcomes also allows the business to concentrate its efforts in a minimally viable way. For example, rather than thinking about how to scale DevOps out of the gate, you focus on the minimally viable ways you can use DevOps to bring about your desired digital outcomes.
Finally, leadership should declare that where DevOps is applied, the team will fully apply it. DevOps shouldn't just be applied everywhere; it must be applied strategically to places with the most benefits. But where it is applied, the team must fully adopt the mindset. A fully applied perspective helps teams avoid change resistance, such as trying to apply pre-digital priorities (stability, predictability, and control) to this post-digital transformation. For more on the relationship between pre- and post-digital, read this post.
You can't move on without this leadership declaration. However, it is not a "one and done" situation. Leadership must continually repeat this edict throughout the change process.
Achieve Buy-In on Digital Outcomes Now that you've identified your digital outcomes, IT and business leaders must be aligned on the digital outcomes so that IT gets the funding necessary to work on realizing these goals. For a digital transformation to work, you need full leadership buy-in. Most often, IT leaders wait for the business to decide to transform. When the business has made that decision, IT must be ready to go. They should articulate to the company that to do a successful digital transformation, they need to:
Operationalize the digital triad (DevOps, Agile, and Cloud)
Take an MVP (Minimally Viable Product) approach
Be digitally outcome-focused
Make a significant investment
IT leaders should make it known to the businesses heads that they know what they need to do, but they’re not able to move forward until the leadership team gets fully on board.
These hard conversations are necessary to get to the digital outcomes. At the end of this phase, IT must have the funding and declared digital outcomes established, so they can work on making them happen.
MVP Approach Achieved through Enablement
To operationalize DevOps (or Cloud or Agile), we want to embrace the idea of enablement. Leaders must make a concerted effort to enable teams to use DevOps by sponsoring capacity whose specific goal is DevOps enablement.
These enablement teams focus on getting other teams to do DevOps. Enablement is how we take the MVP approach; we fund enablement capacity; they support teams who create digital outcomes.
The goal is to help others do the critical capabilities necessary to build and operate digital products. The DevOps enablement teams hold other teams accountable, not based on digital outcomes, but on whether DevOps is used to reach digital outcomes.
Your enablement teams are a guide and resource for teams who are being trained in DevOps, while applying that knowledge to real-life goals which will improve the business. We often demonstrate this through our DevOps Playbooks Approach, which provides a game plan for how DevOps will be operationalized in the business. You can read about it here.
Organizations can't expect to do enablement forever. Instead, your teams need to be able to consume enablement offerings on-demand and at scale. Achieve this by building community.
Often in digital, we care so much about velocity that we tend to lose out on natural knowledge sharing that comes from having control and predictability. Teams must be enabled and encouraged to build a community, or digital outcomes will take precedence. Though digital outcomes are the priority, you can't get to the final scaling phase unless you have community.
Teams should be sharing common challenges and solutions, as well as aiming to solve problems together. Leadership must create and sponsor a community through skill sharing and group solving, whether through engineering events or another concerted effort.
Platforms for Broader Consumption
Once your teams are enabled and have gotten to work solving problems and creating digital outcomes, commonalities will start rising to the surface. With commonalities in work, you can accomplish some pre-digital ideals around predictability, scale, and reuse rather than the chaotic phase of velocity that happens when these capabilities are first adopted.
Using platforms, you can take the common problems teams are solving and shift them to a broader consumption model. Take the technology, processes, and practices that are common use cases and have them stabilized and built into a consumable platform. With DevOps, this may be repeatable frameworks, SRE (Site Reliability Engineering) practices, and CI/CD pipelines, with technology integrated to train developers and solve in a way that's at scale.
Scaling as the Final Step
Finally, we reach scaling, which often comes down to people. Teams must handle the increasing number of use cases, and new revenue channels will continue expanding. At this rate, your organization will run out of capacity to continue this scaled revenue. Remember that if you're doing digital transformation, it is a feast, not a famine. You'll need to hire and train top digital talent to keep up with the pace of digital, but that's a blog post for another time!
We use this approach to help organizations drive forward and reach their ideal digital transformation. Use this approach to add DevOps, Agile, and Cloud to your IT operating model if you want to move new profit generators to thrive in the digital landscape.