DevOps changes corporate culture for the better, study suggests

Survey of 9,200 IT professionals finds direct correlation between DevOps adoption and business success.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

DevOps means greater performance in IT organizations. And higher performance within IT organizations translates to greater success for the rest of the enterprise. 

IBM Watson Group-photo from IBM Media Relations
Photo: IBM Media Relations

That's the main takeaway of a recent survey conducted by Puppet Labs, a provider of IT automation software. The survey, based on the responses of 9,200 IT and software development professionals, finds that DevOps practices are being adopted at accelerated rates, and high-performing IT organizations deploy code 30 times more frequently with 50 percent fewer failures.

DevOps brings together two, often very different worlds within the IT sector: developers and operations people, who often work at odds with one another. Developers are famous for working in more free-form fashion, and burning a lot of midnight oil, while operations people are more focused on schedules and processes. Within today's fast-moving and unforgiving economy, new software needs to built, tested, and released pronto -- within a matter of days and weeks. That's why developers and operators need to work in sync.

So, the corporate culture of getting things done in a hurry is recasting IT. But can IT also change corporate culture as well?  Yes, say the survey's authors, Gene Kim (author of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win), Jez Humble (principal at ThoughtWorks), Dr. Nicole Forsgren Velasquez (professor at Utah State University) and Nigel Kersten (Puppet Labs). The survey shows there's a direct correlation between DevOps adoption and business success, they state.

Well-known DevOps practices such as use of version control and continuous delivery lead to a corporate culture of continuous learning and improvement. That's because open information flow, cross-functional collaboration, shared responsibilities, learning from failures and new ideas are at the heart of DevOps, and correlate strongly with high organizational performance.

IT job satisfaction is another variable in business success. The Puppet Labs survey shows that that the number one predictor of organizational performance is job satisfaction, and that DevOps practices increase employee satisfaction across the board. Software gets delivered quickly, and there's more involvement in designing solutions.

The bottom line is that firms with high-performing IT organizations were twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share and productivity goals, the survey confirms.

Another interesting finding from the survey: 16 percent of respondents were actually even part of a formal "DevOps" department, a relatively new phenomenon. Of these respondents, 55 percent identified as DevOps engineers or systems engineers.

The report's authors make a number of recommendation to help DevOps stick:

  • Work with other teams, and find ways to build empathy.
  • Make invisible work visible -- record what goes on.
  • Learn by sharing knowledge.
  • Always bring back what you learned.
  • Prepare for postmortems.
  • Focus on learning new skills that help you overcome the biggest challenges.
  • Refresh or learn foundational concepts -- such as statistics,
  • Automate the things that are painful.
  • Make sure you’re collecting information on the right services, and putting that information to good
  • use.
  • Create a training budget, and advocate for it internally.
  • Create a climate of learning.
  • Make it safe to fail.
  • Create opportunities and spaces to share information.
  • Build trust with your counterparts on other teams.
  • Encourage practitioners to move between departments.
  • Actively seek, encourage and reward work that facilitates collaboration.
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