DevOps success is about culture, culture culture

Survey of more than 5,000 developers find the most successful continuous integration and delivery stories within 'clear DevOps cultures.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

DevOps may be seen as a workflow strategy, but its implications go much deeper. DevOps is a cultural change for many organizations, and those that get it right are seeing the fruits of their collaborative labor pay off.

Photo: IBM Media Relations

That's the gist of a survey of 5,296 software developers, CTOs and software professionals, conducted and released by GitLab. The survey shows that DevOps is the highest priority for software professionals in 2018.

It should be noted that GitLab is a DevOps platform provider, so it has a horse in this race. Still, this exploration of the embrace of DevOps reflects growing acknowledgement that software release cycle are getting to frequent and intense not to be collaborated on and coordinated across the enterprise. Four in 10 respondents say they deploy code multiple times through the day. You can't just turn the screws and put the squeeze on developers to pump the code out faster and faster. What is needed is a work culture that encourages collaboration, sharing of information, continuous improvement and continuous innovation.

With DevOps, the work of developers is synced with release and deployment cycles managed by the operations teams. This way, the creative energy of developers is focused on the requirements at hand. The roots of DevOps thinking can be traced back to the formulation of the Toyota Production System, which sought to bring its engineering and design capabilities into alignment with its production systems. William Holroyd does a great job of explaining this connection in his post on DevOps and Toyota.

As in Toyota's manufacturing environment, culture is everything in DevOps. In the Gitlab survey, the high performers, who deploy their code on demand, and who estimated that they spend 50 percent or more of their time on new work, report having a clear DevOps culture at rates more than double (45 percent) than that of lower-performing teams (21 percent).Although developers and managers understand the importance of DevOps, it is still in the early stages for adoption.

Thirty five percent of respondents say they have a somewhat established DevOps culture and only 23 percent go so far as to describe their development method as DevOps. Many development teams have still not fully adopted a DevOps workflow and more than half of developers (55 percent) are still using at least five tools to complete the development process.

Interesting aside here in viewing the survey results: the majority of respondents are under the age of 35. Does this point to a generation gap, with younger developers and IT professionals more open to collaborative approaches, perhaps from being raised on the Internet?

Additionally, there is still a lack of consistency among developer, operations, security and product teams with one quarter of developers indicating they do not have visibility into what their colleagues from those teams are working on. Only 20 percent would rate their use of continuous integration as "very good," showing how much work is needed to make this work.

Although a strong majority feel comfortable proposing new ways of working, they face difficulty overcoming the status quo. Replacing ingrained practices (cited by 58 percent), along with a resistance to change (50 percent), are the top two challenges identified by all respondents.

There are tangible results being seen with DevOps as well. The survey finds 65 percent believe the DevOps workflow saves them time during the development process, and 29 percent plan to invest in DevOps for 2018. Those implemented a DevOps strategy report seeing a direct correlation between DevOps to team productivity.

Continuous integration remains a top priority for development teams with 63 percent of respondents saying they plan to invest in CI tools in 2018. Nearly half of all respondents (47 percent) strongly agree that practicing continuous integration alleviates blockers in the development process. I

n addition to CI, automation is increasingly top of mind for software professionals as half of respondents report delays in testing, while 58 percent report delays in planning. As a result, 36 percent of IT managers plan to invest in automation tools in 2018 to alleviate these pain points.

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