Ten ways DevOps can change how you run your IT department

The DevOps trend is growing in popularity among enterprise IT. Here are some of the top benefits for businesses that choose to implement it.
Written by Conner Forrest, Contributor
Image: iStockphoto/mavoimages

Across the enterprise, tech leaders are implementing DevOps as a means of cementing a cohesive approach to innovation in IT. As DevOps continues to grow in popularity, the Agile approach and tools like containers and orchestration platforms are becoming commonplace.

SEE: IT leader's guide to making DevOps work (Tech Pro Research)

However, is there any real benefit to utilizing DevOps? Using DevOps can definitely improve the customer experience, but it can also improve IT. Here are 10 ways that DevOps will benefit your IT department.

1. Increased collaboration

The overall goal of DevOps is to deliver value faster. One of the key benefits to the organization, in breaking down the wall between developers and operations, is the improved collaboration that happens between the two departments and the shift in the way they approach problems.

"With DevOps, IT departments become collaborators with the development and product teams, they are full partners in the overall success of the product," said Chris Condo, Forrester senior analyst for application development and delivery.

2. Shorter time to market

Because of its reliance on short sprints and the Agile methodology, DevOps can help an organization get a new product or service to market faster. Often, Condo said, the product also more clearly fits into the company's mission.

"The overall benefits are typically shorter cycle time to get an idea from inception to fully realized in production, with better quality, and better alignment with the business goals of the company," Condo said.

3. Shorter cycle times

In addition to simply getting to market faster, the DevOps approach also allows for shorter upgrade cycle times with continuous deployment. Donnie Berkholz, of 451 Research, said that by using a lean approach to software delivery, companies can identify and remove bottlenecks.

"As companies move from monthly or quarterly releases toward continuous delivery, they need to transform their release processes to enable them to ship software multiple times a day instead of multiple times a year," Berkholz said. "This often identifies key chokepoints in the delivery pipeline."

4. Improved automation

Companies looking to implement DevOps lean heavily on automation, which helps with the aforementioned time to market but also frees employees up to focus on more thought-heavy processes. Gartner research director George Spafford said that automation is "absolutely critical," but it must be done "in the context of what we're trying to accomplish."

A big part of DevOps is having clearly defined workflows, and those approaches can be further reinforced by automation, Spafford said. That makes it easier to build in requirements for security and compliance as well, and reduces the odds of human error, he added.

5. Broadened skill sets

In eliminating certain silos and having developers and operations work together, a sort of cross-pollination happens where employees will often pick up additional skills and gain a better understanding of the daily work happening in other departments.

"IT department members take on many of the same skill sets as their developer counterparts, such as replacing manual configuration steps with Infrastructure as Code methodologies and adding automation where possible to enable resilient and scalable infrastructure," said Condo.

6. Decreased waste

By running lean and iterating quickly, companies are using resources more efficiently and often eliminating waste. According Spafford, "DevOps is more about creating value and addressing waste than it is about cost cutting."

While Spafford said that some managers are often too concerned about cost cutting, DevOps can help cut cost in some areas too. Darrell Pratt, director of software development at Cars.com, said that implementing DevOps allowed his company to reduce their operations group and move many responsibilities to "development teams and move release engineers into an embedded Systems Reliability Engineer (SRE) in our development pods. We think as a singular group now with the complete lifecycle of an application as our guide as to how we build new features for our business."

7. Employee involvement

By iterating quickly and constantly touching base with teammates, employees are able to learn quickly and make a big impact on the business, Spafford said. Additionally, they are better able to see that impact as the projects they're working on are released quickly and iterated on.

"People are starting to see: 'Hey, my job matters. I'm not working on stuff that's utter bologna. I can see the value that I am creating to the organization everyday when I come into work," said Spafford.

8. Faster feedback

Berkholz argues that one of the biggest benefits to the continuous deployment cycle enabled by DevOps is that "companies can iterate more quickly based on customer feedback." He added that this allows companies to take a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach -- typical of smaller startups -- to the product and services.

That quick feedback also helps businesses better deal with uncertainty, Spafford said, as they have more transparency into what works and what doesn't.

9. Changes the way you view problems

DevOps can also change your organization by altering how you approach problems and view your assets. For example, Pratt said that DevOps has encouraged Cars.com to adopt the mantra: "Everything is code."

"Applications, services, environment definitions, workflows, pipelines are all code based and allow us to quickly make changes in both the application code base and how or where it is deployed," he said.

Alex Popov, application developer customer lead for Barclaycard US, said that DevOps is a "transformational journey towards a state where operations is viewed as a software problem." However, said Popov, that view will be different for each company and will also be impacted by changes in the market.

10. Scalability

Many of the core technologies and platforms utilized by the DevOps faithful also help with scalability.

"Infrastructure automation enables companies to optimize for cloud, quickly scaling capacity up or down as demand changes over time," Berkholz said. "With a DevOps-driven approach that thinks about delivering services with clusters of identical VMs or containers that are automatically created by code, this scalability is much easier than if each VM were manually curated."

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