DevOps: Why getting the culture right is the key to success

Do you do Agile, DevOps or 'Fragile'? Breaking down silos is key to making DevOps work, says the CTO of Ness Digital Engineering.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Kranc: Breaking down silos is key to DevOps

Photo: Ness/Twitter

One company that aims to take advantage of that trend towards DevOps is custom software development company Ness Digital Engineering.

It recently announced that it is taking on another 800 staff who would mostly specialise in DevOps and related technologies.

ZDNet spoke to its CTO, Moshe Kranc, a man who started in software development working on Arpanet back in the 1970s.

What's your take on the current state of DevOps?

I meet with a lot of customers and I hear from them a lot about DevOps, it's not something I need to sell them.

They have read about it, there are all kinds of statistics out there on the web about how it reduces deployment time from seven days to a half a day, reduces incident volume by a factor of twenty and other amazing improvements that any company would want.

I am typically talking to the business and the technical side of companies and it is usually the business side that is pushing it.But I can't recommend a DevOps approach to every customer because it requires that you have done a decent amount of homework beforehand. You have to do a lot of groundwork in your organisation to implement DevOps. It's a process that involves cultural and organisation change and we can help people through that.

I would think that customers would have a basic grasp of DevOps by now, or do you think there are still some issues there?

I don't think the business side understand it that well. They understand, often from the competition, about the tremendous business benefits in things like the speed of deployment and so on, but I don't think that they fully understand what it is and what's involved.

They usually do understand that it is a process. That process starts with the culture - breaking down silos, changing attitudes, and so on. Helping Dev and Ops to work together.

Breaking down those walls between engineers is a process that takes time. That's the hard part.

You know, there are a lot of companies doing Agile, but it's silo'd Agile within one department. It's still not there in terms of breaking down those silos.

And you think these issues are fairly common around the world?

The desires for DevOps is fairly common, and the barriers are too because it is, first and foremost, a cultural change.

Another impediment is that it requires a number of skills including ones that emphasise the cultural changes. You have to be doing true Agile but some companies are doing what I would call "Fragile", That's waterfall with daily stand-ups. They say we're doing Agile, but it's not really.

In order to do true Agile you have to have a good handle on automated testing - you can't get to continuous deployment without it. You have to have a good handle on cloud because, typically, these things run on the cloud. You have to have an understanding of containers, Docker, etc. And an understanding of micro-service architectures doesn't hurt either because it's another piece in the speed that you need to achieve full digital transformation.

You've got to have some other skills built-up as well if DevOps is to work. That's why there have been failures and it's also why adoption is taking time. But I think it's success is inevitable just because of the proven benefit.

Do you see a differentiation between Agile and DevOps?

Agile is DevOps in one silo. It's Agile but just within development. So when you spread Agile across silos then you're doing DevOps.

I ask that question a lot and always get a different answer every time.

And you'll get a different definition for digital transformation and for DevOps. The terms are a little slippery but I think the interest and intent are clear. It's a common question.

Where do you think the companies should start from?

A good place to start is to get help. Use a company like Ness or one of the many others working in this area because you probably won't have experience of these kinds of transformations. You need to bring in a partner.

Then you have to work with your trusted partner and together work out what the company does and come up with a plan of how you are going to move to DevOps. And then it requires buy-in from from everybody in your organisation.

This process has to start from the top with senior management making a clear statement and commitment that this is how they are going to be working from now on. People will resist change and that's why it has to come from the top.

As an aside, I would say that the best way to get people to change is to bring them to a point where they understand that the current way of doing things is bankrupt. That's when people are willing to change.

Take advantage of people who are using non-DevOps and use them as the jump-off point for starting a DevOps revolution.

So developing a plan, getting an understanding of how the current organisation is working, getting the senior management to buy in and organising it from the grass roots all helps as well.

What proportion of your work is DevOps related?

It's probably very small, but it's a spear kind of thing. A number of our development centres have already gone through it and have mentored other customers. Now we have "stickiness" with those customers because we mentored them through a successful process.

Some of the others I would steer away from DevOps because they are not at the right maturity level. They do not have the right level of understanding of Agile or the benefits of microservices.

You don't just want to throw them DevOps because that can lead to failure. You want to follow them on an evolutionary basis.

What's your background?

I invented the Internet! Well, I am half-joking. My first job was working on the Arpanet [the precursor of the Internet] in the late '70s. When I started I was finishing an FTP implementation to improve the performance of the Arpanet routers.

I moved to Israel and worked with Applix and the Zoomix. I joined Ness four years ago.

Further Reading:

Why DevOps is key for your business in 60 seconds

Actual business value of DevOps and Agile practices still elusive, survey suggests

DevOps: Where it's going and how to make the most of it

DevOps: What is it, and how can it help your business?

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