DevOps delivers faster software releases - and happier people

'The most rewarding aspect of DevOps is the impact on individuals. To see people that are genuinely happy, and derive happiness from their work.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

First, the good news: DevOps is much more than a process change that speeds up software development and deployment. It invokes cultural change to the point where peoples' at-work personalities can actually change -- for the better.

Photo: CERN Press Office

Now the bad news: Moving forward with DevOps often requires a "trigger event" -- such as a merger or CEO change -- to motivate the organization to fully embrace such change.

These are the observations of Rob Englund, independent IT management consultant, trainer, and commentator, who has helped bring about DevOps within New Zealand's largest government organizations. Englund, recently interviewed by RunAsRadio's Richard Campbell, said gaining executive support for DevOps and related transformation can be challenging, but once underway, there is a "blossoming" effect.

IT leaders in and of themselves find it very hard to be the initial disruptors, Englund points out.."You may be in an exploratory phase, with people trying some Agile, and some new tools, but there has to be some sort of trigger event, or some sort of emergency," he relates. "Once you've got the trigger, then it's a lot easier to get executive support and the hearts and minds of people. It's got to be something such as, 'were going to split the organization in two,' or 'we've got a new CEO who wants to change everything.'"

Because organizations let their dysfunctions build up to a point where it takes a massive undertaking to set a new course, technology-driven transformation has to happen with a "big bang," Englund relates. In the case of one large government organization he was working with, transformation had to be all-encompassing to lift the entire enterprise out of its calcified state. "It was everything -- it was a cultural problem, it was an absence of automation, it was lots of siloed thinking and no sharing, it was no measurement and feedback."

The new CIO in this instance had to take bold steps, involving DevOps, to move the organization into the 21st century, Englund explains. "He had to take bold pushes to get started on the journey. He just decreed were going to start doing cadenced releases. Everything going out the door is integrated to the core trunk, and just goes out the door."

One of the things about Agile, Englund says, is "you're going to release on demand, there's going to be lots and lots of little releases flying out the door. This was the opposite -- everything had to be integrated together, and all going out the door within six weeks."

The challenge here was that "spaghettified, massive dependencies and entanglements defeated the theory of rapid deployment," he continues. Initially, the organization was able to move to a six-week cadence of releases "with no technology -- they had mostly manual environment builds, mostly manual testing." As the organization was able to get up to speed with automation and new tools, it was able to reduce its release cycles to four weeks. By the end of the year, the goal is every two weeks, he adds.

IT service and ITIL-based efforts have not delivered in the past because they are hinged on executed processes, rather than broader organizational and people transformation, Englund states. He says he has seen people transformed as a result of initiatives such as DevOps. "The biggest reward for me is watching people blossom. There are people who are oppressed by the system, and unreasonable systems create unreasonable people. If you fix the system, most people blossom and turn into a different person. Suddenly, they're happy and cooperative and creative. For me the most rewarding aspect of DevOps is the impact on individuals. To see people that are genuinely happy, and derive happiness from their work."

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