DevOps is well known in companies such as Amazon, Etsy and Facebook. It is gaining traction in the enterprise, being employed in just about every industry imaginable. One common trait these companies have is the ability to recruit the equivalent of “The A-Team” to come in and help guide them through the cultural and technological changes necessary to achieve DevOps success.

Cultural change is a must. Frequently, people interested in DevOps think that DevOps is about technology alone. Yes, it plays an important part, but technology and cultural change are necessary for you to be successful.

Cultural change isn’t easy. It is hard in newer organizations such as Amazon or Facebook, and much, much harder in companies that have been around for a long time, which don’t specialize in technology and have years of ingrained culture.

A coalition of the willing. The best way to start with DevOps is by putting together a coalition of the willing. By organizing a small group of champions in different areas of a company, it is easier to demonstrate what can be achieved when silos are eliminated and people are working toward a set of common goals, taking shared responsibility for the outcomes of projects. Making DevOps work on a small scale is a very powerful tool when trying to sell DevOps to senior management.

If you are in the process of selling DevOps to upper management, it is important that the goals of the DevOps initiative are aligned with the organization’s business goals. The ability to accurately reflect the status of work in the system and trends over time is vital to demonstrating value to the business and continuously improving processes once they are in place. Unfortunately, gathering and reporting on data from multiple sources to illustrate value to different people in an organization is challenging, and it can be quite time-consuming to set up and maintain as tool chains evolve.

You’ll need automation. Even though a company can adapt to create an environment that is conducive to DevOps success, and as metrics are established so that the business value can easily be illustrated, it means little without automation. Without automation, there will still be manual processes, which are frequently error-prone, slow, lack traceability and are not repeatable. Also, manual processes result in work being stuck in a wait state instead of being executed, which leads to waste in the system. That isn’t to say that everything can or should be automated; frequently there are reasons for manual steps to exist.

Automation that is easy to use and maintain is a key component in a DevOps initiative. It is also one area where many organizations struggle.

You’ll need scalability. One of the challenges enterprises face when trying to adopt DevOps is coming up with solutions based on success stories championed by the DevOps community. The evangelists in the DevOps community usually work with skilled teams of engineers who understand dev and ops. Armed with a wide variety of tools (commonly homegrown and open source), ingenious solutions have been put together to achieve high levels of automation, enabling amazing throughput in those organizations. These solutions don’t scale to the larger business community.

About Jonathan Thorpe