The DevOps Dilemma


How do you get more done, with higher quality and lower costs?

It isn’t often technology departments have such a clear business case for a technology focused project. That’s right, a technology focused project with tremendous upside for both the business customers, our fellow technology leaders and performers.

DevOps is an easy sell to business partners when you can demonstrate the value. Let’s look at concrete and tangible reasons for getting your business and your technology leaders on board with DevOps.

Shorten product cycle times

Time to market is critical in the Digital Age. Imagine sitting down with your business partners and explaining you can shorten time to market by 200x with faster deployments (according to PuppetLabs 2016 State of DevOps.) Many of us are familiar with Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law was a prediction that integrated circuits would double their capacity every 2 years. Moore’s Law feels applicable to all products and services today. Looking at your phone, car, TV, etc.  What’s the business impact when delays occur when delivering software to help launch a new marketing campaign, a new product offering, a new customer service offering? Delays kill interruption and disruption. I have seen CIO’s lose their job because they focused on operational excellence instead of enabling the business to ideate and iterate.

Improve culture

DevOps helps change the relationship between the business and their technology counterparts. In most organizations getting software built and delivered is a 3-part system including the business (your customer), the development team and the operations team. The business has to interact and align both teams to get digital products delivered.

In many organizations, the development organization has adopted Agile practices. The operations side has been slower to change as complexity of the production environment and emphasis from leadership on stability and uptime has been the mantra for the past couple of decades. When software breaks the development and operations team typically point fingers at the potential root cause of the issue. The complexity of the code being delivered with the complexity of the systems supporting the code creates an environment that is very slow to move and hard to fix.

By implementing DevOps best practices including training, developing DevOps processes, and buying tools to help manage the process, your development and operations team can work together to build a continuous delivery environment focused on deploying software at any time with higher quality. By fixing the blame game, you delight your business customers and your teams work together on continuous improvement with less finger pointing.

Recover quicker

The technical phrase is ‘Mean time to recover’ or MTTR.  This is the way we measure how long it takes to recover a system from catastrophic failure.  Having this conversation with your business customer is a tricky one that requires finesse and facts. Consider the story of Knight Capital, a financial services firm engaged in high-frequency trading. In August 2012, Knight Capital manually deployed untested code to production. This untested code caused price fluctuations and stock trades in 148 companies that ended up costing the company $440 million.  This all happened within 45 minutes.  In fact, they started getting email alerts as early as 8am that pre-opening trading volume was erratic. At 9:30 when trading started, they realized quickly that something was wrong. It took 45 minutes to find the server and the code that was causing the rogue trading. This disruption killed the company’s reputation and they eventually ended up selling at a discount to another firm.

Hopefully, you never find yourself in this type of catastrophic, business ending situation.  This failure was a technology issue that was more than likely precipitated by business decisions.  However, at the end of the day, the business doesn’t release code to production, the development and operations team do. Having a DevOps practice with sound testing and regression processes in place would have easily rectified this situation and saved Knight Capital.

Improve morale

Software developers want to feel their impact to the business and your operations people don’t like chasing system issues in the middle of the night.  Both teams want to spend more time being strategic and solving problems, not fire-fighting.

The promise of DevOps done correctly is a symbiotic relationship between development and operations. They create a DevOps culture that forms a blended team of developers and system administrators that work together to build processes and tools to automate complex deployment tasks. By enabling a DevOps culture, developers and system administrators are focused together on creating new capabilities for their business customers.

Greater flexibility and execution

Your business wants to create new products, improve customer services and deliver features. They want it done quickly and they want partners that understand their sense of urgency. They want to be able to test their ideas and make changes in real time to capitalize on market dynamics. They don’t want to wait weeks for development and operations to rollout new strategies.

A DevOps practice will help achieve this flexibility and execution.  Yes, there will be an investment to start. The DevOps practice won’t happen overnight. It takes the right support from leadership, the right people and the right mindset.  If executed correctly, it becomes a part of the culture and your business wins. And, it doesn’t just work for new systems. A solid DevOps approach will enable old and new technologies to work better, together.

Don’t know how to start? UDig can help you assess your organization and recommend how DevOps can improve. It starts with the end in mind, requiring you to know your metrics and start slowly. Read how we recently helped a transportation data organization do just that.  And, need more to help build your business case for DevOps?

About The Author

Andy Frank is our Founder and CEO. Since founding UDig, he has had the opportunity to build a business fueled by finding clients the right solutions to their technology problems.