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The Great Debate: Is DevOps a Role or a Method of Working?

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In a world that seems to debate everything, there is one debate in the IT world that seems to never end. Is DevOps a role or is it a method of working? There are many people in the industry asking what does DevOps mean?

The DevOps debate isn’t one that should go on forever though. Because the truth is, when it’s understood and applied correctly, DevOps can strengthen teams and increase productivity.

Let’s start by discussing what is DevOps and what it’s not.

What Does DevOps Mean?

We’ll get right to the point: DevOps is not a role and DevOps is more than a way of working together.

While it’s tough to define DevOps, we use an acronym to explain it. CALMS, was coined by Jez Humble, one of the co-authors of “The DevOps Handbook.” CALMS is a framework for integrating development and operational teams. In other words, creating DevOps teams.

CALMS stands for:

  • Culture
  • Automation
  • Lean
  • Measurement
  • Sharing

And yet, DevOps is more than the Dev team and the Ops team working together. I know, what you’re thinking. So it’s not a role and it’s not a way of working together; then what does DevOps mean?

True DevOps results in a cultural change that breaks down the functional silos between Dev and Ops teams. DevOps helps to create cross-disciplined teams that have end-to-end responsibility for delivering software with speed and agility.

It sounds great, right? And almost kind of easy, doesn’t it? You just get the Dev team and the Ops team to work together.

Except, it’s not that easy and organizations who approach DevOps with this type of attitude won’t be able to make it work for their organization.

How To Shift Towards DevOps

The shift to DevOps starts with a culture shift and in order for that culture shift to happen, you need buy-in from everyone. This is hard to do!  Whether we want to admit it or not, humans don’t like change. If teams have been working in one certain way, then they are going to resist changing that.

There are a few things you can do to help encourage the DevOps buy-in across the organization. The first thing to do is start at the top. The C-suite and management must buy into DevOps before anyone else. If even one member of the C-suite asks “why DevOps” and is resistant, then DevOps will likely fail.

After the C-suite is firmly on board and ready to implement this shift in your organization, you can start working on your teams.

  • Be inclusive with everyone on the team about the DevOps implementation plan.
    • The entire Dev and Ops teams must be included in these conversations about implementing DevOps. You want to start the practice of knowledge sharing across all teams. Knowledge sharing only works if management and leaders start sharing knowledge.
  • Align teams along product or service lines.
    • Many organizations struggle with this but in order for DevOps to be properly implemented, teams cannot be aligned along functional hierarchies. Often in hierarchal organizations, teams will just throw issues “over the wall” to other teams. This is anti-DevOps behavior and the only solution is to realign teams along product or service lines.
  • Hold each other accountable.
    • Speaking of throwing issues over the wall, accountability is a must in a DevOps culture. There has to be an organization-wide acceptance for accountability. If you say you are doing to do something, it must get done. Making mistakes should be embraced as part of the culture because, in DevOps, everyone must be able to accept, own and learn from their mistakes.

How Companies Make Mistakes In DevOps Implementation

Even though I’ve been saying that DevOps is a cultural shift that ends silos and forms cross-discipline teams, let’s make one thing clear. There’s no such thing as a “DevOps team.” Hiring someone and putting DevOps in their title or creating a DevOps team does not mean you are implementing DevOps.

Let’s look at a popular DevOps “title” to address the issues with it. What is a DevOps engineer?

Many organizations create a DevOps Engineer role but it’s actually a SysAdmin using a tool. This is quite anti-DevOps. DevOps is not just implementing a tool.

If an organization truly wants a DevOps engineer, then they should identify someone who can act as a project manager or Scrum Master who can become a DevOps evangelist. Whatever the role, you need anyone with a DevOps title to be an active proponent of the key components of DevOps culture.

It’s also bad practice to just relabel roles and shift teams around. If you’re at a boring party, shuffling around the guests in a different seating order isn’t going to change the fact that the party is, in fact, boring.

Remember, it’s not about combining two teams or having people in certain roles. It’s about adopting a culture of collaboration and accountability.

One complaint I’ve heard is that in many big companies, a DevOps team simply ends up being a team of people mandating certain processes for everyone and exerting complete control of those processes.

In case you haven’t been following along, that’s still silo mentality! Except now you’re just calling that silo “DevOps”.

What Is DevOps?

When we look at what does DevOps mean, we can see that it’s so much more than what most professionals assume. DevOps isn’t a title. It isn’t a department. It isn’t a team.

DevOps is a mindset, an attitude. It’s a cultural shift that requires acceptance from every member, communication across teams and complete accountability.

If your organization is in Central Indiana and is ready to get started on your DevOps Journey, register for our DASA DevOps Fundamentals Class on September 11. In this class, you’ll learn the foundations of DevOps. You’ll also you’ll learn from real-world examples and exercises so that you can take back and show your organization what DevOps would look like when applied to your company and how it can shift a company towards improved productivity. 

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