For DevOps, internal platforms and self-service options are in

Latest annual Puppet survey shows platforms making inroads, making application teams more efficient, providing a balance between standardization and team autonomy. Another benefit: smoother change management
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

DevOps efforts are benefiting from a rise in the use of internal platforms that provide for self service. In addition, companies that adopt DevOps in a big way also are finding change management is a lot easier. 

Photo: HubSpot

That's the word from the latest annual survey of 35,000 technology professionals released by Puppet, which finds a shift to internal platforms to move DevOps forward. "The platform model can make application teams more efficient by allowing them to focus on their core competency of building and delivering products - providing a balance between standardization and team autonomy," according to the report's authors, Alanna Brown (Puppet), Nigel Kersten (Puppet), and Michael Stahnke (CircleCI).

Internal platform usage is widespread, with 63 percent of respondents saying their companies have at least one self-service internal platform -- and most report even having at between two and four platforms. Almost a third of respondents have at least 25 to 50 percent of their developers using an internal platform 

High DevOps evolution correlates strongly with high use of internal platforms, the researchers suggest. Highly evolved firms are six times as likely to report high use of internal platforms as firms at a low level of DevOps evolution. Such sites also are more likely to offer self‑service offerings for developers, the survey's authors also observe. Such capabilities include CI/CD workflows, internal infrastructure, public cloud infrastructure, and audit logging.

Top challenges to providing an internal DevOps platform include a lack of time, a lack of standardization, and a lack of technical skills within their teams. "Many of these challenges are mutually reinforcing," Brown and her co-authors suggest. "Lack of empowerment from leadership is often due to a team's inability to express the benefits of a platform in terms that leadership cares about. Lack of time is often a symptom of too much manual work and not enough standardization to create economies of scale."

DevOps is also impacting change management in a positive way, the study shows. Change management effectiveness increases as organizations evolve their DevOps practices. Highly evolved firms are nearly three times as likely to have highly effective change management as firms at a low level of DevOps evolution. 

The most effective change management is achieved by firms that emphasize a high degree of testing and deployment automation, a high degree of automated risk mitigation, and DevOps processes and culture.  
"Highly orthodox approval processes make change management process inefficient," Brown and her co-authors state. "Firms with highly orthodox approvals are nine times more likely to have high levels of inefficiency in their change management process than firms with low levels of orthodox approval. Automation makes people more confident their change management is effective. Firms whose employees believe their change management is effective are three times more likely to automate testing and deployment than firms where confidence in change management performance is low. Firms that give people a say in the change management process have better change management."
Top challenges to automating the change management process include incomplete test coverage, an "organizational mindset," and a tightly coupled application architecture. "For a fully automated deployment, teams may want a lot of tests to pass before going into staging or production: unit, integration, systems, performance and user acceptance tests," Brown and the team observe. "Many organizations, however, don't invest this deeply in testing, so they aren't confident enough to move to fully automated deployment."

The report's co-authors offer the following recommendations for applying DevOps principles to change management: 

  • Break down silos and build empathy. "Engage with your change management, release management, audit and compliance teams. Understand their fears and motivations, respect their roles, and learn to use their vocabularies to describe the capabilities your teams can provide."
  • Create feedback loops. "Look to build feedback loops from the people who are bound by change management policies to the people who are responsible for defining them. Feedback loops should cover not only sentiment from IT teams, but also include the introduction of new capabilities."
  • Measure the impact of your new approach. "Establish the metrics you'll track to prove whether things have improved. All this information should be made visible for the sake of continuous improvement - and just as important, to deliver much‑deserved satisfaction and recognition to the people who have worked hard for these improvements. Make your success visible."
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