Six tricks to kickstart a company’s DevOps transformation journey

The quest for new approaches to software development is a continuous one that has seen many organizations gravitate from the waterfall model to agile development DevOps.

Up to 63% of organizations that adopt DevOps transformation release software more frequently and experience improvements in the quality of their digital product deployments.

This approach is of a significantly revolutionary nature as they aren’t that easy to settle into.

DevOps champions greater collaboration between development and operations teams, which has far-reaching implications on organizational structures and leadership regimes.

We shall dissect a typical DevOps transformation and show how leaders can stay tuned into it.

Difficulties in starting a DevOps transformation

DevOps transformation is hindered by the orientation of multiple functions in risk avoidance.

Employees in various departments are usually focused on ensuring that they follow all the applicable internal rules when creating or handling work product and other resources.

Additionally, when serving in industrial sectors like banking and healthcare, there are stringent industry-wide regulatory standards that these employees have to contend with.

The constant fear of being slapped with fines and lawsuits makes employees reluctant to reimagine the procedures associated with their various functions.

DevOps transformation is also often hampered by the siloed nature of many organizations.

Many employees are used to working on personal or departmental goals and do not try to envision the bigger picture that may involve the business and their respective industry.

With little consideration of the relationship between their roles and those of employees in other departments, there’s minimal harmony in their goals and they won’t move in sync.

Such scenarios are also usually characterized by a lack of proper and effective communication between employee teams across different departments in the organisation.

To successfully institute a DevOps transformation, there is a growing necessity to identify all the facets of the organization that may be lacking in synergy.

Project directors and managers have to recognise the weaknesses in cooperation and ensure that all concerned parties are facilitated with tools to create awareness.

Leaders have to encourage contributions from the members on how to remedy issues at hand.

They should embark on a cultural shift that transcends interpersonal behavior (calls, messages, meetings), extending to the use of relevant tools and introduction of new work practices.

Bridging the gap between leaders and teams

To achieve success, there are a number of efforts that leaders can take in order to work better.

Pushing top-to-bottom change

Before DevOps can be infused at the lowest level, managers, directors and other leaders need to alter the way they work with each other in order to be exemplary to other employees.

These company executives and managers need to adjust their availability and accessibility such that team members can always get crucial messages to them in a timely manner.

They should also be make themselves more present during collaborative efforts where the changing needs of team members are going to be discussed in detail.

The goal is to pinpoint more opportunities where leaders can learn more about the team while also imparting knowledge to the team regarding the new mission of faster delivery.

Those below them can do the same and this wave can continue all the way to the bottom.

As members tweak their approach to work and collaboration, they can discover limitations that are unique to their function and relay them to the next person above. This includes how often to meet, what tools to send messages with, how to package and present deliverables.

As leaders learn more about the team members’ hurdles, they can move to provide the required resources or suggest solutions and also solicit some from within the team.

This improvement can foster a DevOps transformation that is tailored to their unique needs.

Reinforce trust

Without trust, team members are bound to give each other and their leaders the wrong picture.

This scenario may create undesired results such as missed deadlines, release of a quality that is lower than expected, misappropriation of resources and many other curveballs.

The first step to building trust within the team is to bring them together in setting goals.

Leaders must ensure that member’s goals are not in conflict with the broader long term goals and ensure that before work can commence, everyone has agreed on what is to be achieved.

The next step is to remind members that everyone is on the same team.

This step can be achieved by calling upon the employees to interact with whoever they didn’t know previously, find out what they do and how it complements their own roles.

Any tasks to be assigned should be modelled as group tasks and not split into individual tasks.

Once members have mini-projects that need two or more employees, they can start to appreciate each other’s contribution to the specific project and therefore helps to build trust.

Employees will also eventually look at the leader as someone whose actions are causing them to work better as a group and therefore be more likely to follow the leader.

Getting team members out of old habits

It takes a lot to nudge people out of their old ways if they’ve had company in those habits.

A successful DevOps adoption strategy requires employees to make substantial changes in the way they approach problems, whether creating solutions individually or in a group.

Here are some techniques that can help you change people’s ways.

Tolerate smart failure

DevOps calls for faster iterations which inevitably jeopardizes quality. It is therefore very important to let team members know that they can experiment with different solutions.

Company executives can encourage this open-mindedness and risk-taking in their employees by putting in place mechanisms that enable team members to revert to earlier trials.

There should be systems in place to anticipate and single out errors and troublesome issues.

Employees feel more comfortable knowing that they have a support system with both people and tools that can be quickly channeled towards troubleshooting and fixing problems.

Encourage transparency

It is critically important for company employees who are working together on a particular to be able to easily understand how one person approached a specific problem.

Company executives and managers should encourage their team members to practice meticulous documentation and information sharing whenever they tweak a product.

When team members are offered facilities and know that they have quick pointers available to them when working on a project, they’ll find it easier to jump in and contribute.

Subsequently, the employee who displays transparency will be helped to reach their goal faster and also learn extra tactics that they can apply later on in their careers.

Foster proactive-ness and autonomy

For teams working on a project to be able to move at a fast pace, you need to reduce the number of instances where people need to first receive instructions or secure permission.

Particularly for abrupt eventualities, team members should be facilitated to quickly come up with an effective course of action and implement it in a short time.

As long as they aren’t deviating from the intended result, members shouldn’t be put in an environment where they have to ask for the way forward or try certain solutions.

Once members feel like they have some autonomy, they can be motivated by the responsibility that comes with it and think of ways they can be ready to improve on whatever is lacking.

Practice user-centricity

Team members should ask themselves, “How does this eventually benefit the user?” By doing so, they are able to channel out all the distractions of nice-to-have but insignificant features.

Employees will also eliminate any tools and methods that come with more sophistication than actual problem-solving from their internal work methods.

Endeavor to create robust value streams where every team member knows what they are trying to help the user to do when they set out to code, test or perform some other action.

Eliminate some of the more serious languageand present tasks to team members in simple, user-centric terms like “make the path to categories shorter” or “speed up the search function.”

What’s the way forward?

All-in-all, there are many ways in which company executives and mangers can induce cultural shifts that lead to successful adoption of DevOps within an organization.

Emphasize automation since it frees up members’ time for more creative tasks, while still promoting planning and prioritization, such as when writing tests and choosing patterns.

Building dedicated cross-functional teams also goes a long way in promoting DevOps adoption. You end up with a more varied set of skills, which supports end-to-end responsibility.

With people developing products while having the entire picture in mind, they are able to refine their approach to work, striking the perfect middle-ground between speed and quality.

Ultimately, for DevOps to take root, leaders have to embrace it too. Members of the organization have to see the change in those above them, for them to be moved to change too.

And most importantly, a DevOps transformation isn’t completed with one flip of a switch.

You have to create strong feedback loops and track several metrics regarding the techniques used, the performance gains realized, and the resultant value created.

DevOps is continuous in nature, so you have to keep trying different things, keeping and improving what works, and dropping what doesn’t work effectively for your organisation.

Gerald Ainomugisha is a freelance Content Solutions Provider (CSP) offering both content and copy writing services for businesses of all kinds, especially in the niches of management, marketing and technology.