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Batter Up: DevOps as a Team Sport

September 23, 2021 | By Al Sadowski

For DevOps to work well, developers, operations staff, security teams, finance, and other business leaders must work together

A DevOps team is not much different than a baseball team. There are individuals with unique skills – developers, security teams, system admins, and business owners – who need to work together to make it successful. Unfortunately, in many workplaces these job functions are siloed, creating obstacles to achieving a high-functioning DevOps culture.

The solution is building strong communication across all functions of your organization so your team knows what to expect and how to respond. If you were a baseball coach, you’d want your catcher to know in advance if the pitcher is about to throw of 95 MPH fastball or an 82 MPH curveball, and the same holds true across IT. 

When a professional baseball player goes into a slump at the plate, he may change out the bat or adjust swing mechanics with the help of a hitting instructor. For a software development organization, a slump may mean being slow to market with new features, or even worse, pushing out buggy software.

Regardless, that team needs to change things up and reach for some new strategies such as deploying a new automated testing tool or replacing a flaw in the software delivery process with an agile development methodology. However, this results in only temporary improvements.

Many organizations fail to expand DevOps beyond the initial Proof of Concept stage. While technology choices can play a part in improvement, it is more often a lack of organizational buy-in and an inability to break free from legacy development methodologies that prevent a DevOps team from winning.

Put Me in Coach: Creating a Winning DevOps Team

In baseball, every hitter has a unique approach. Similarly, DevOps is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it requires aligning your company mission with industry best practices and integrating CI/CD tools to increase your organization’s time to value. If only it were as simple as switching out your bat!

Understanding how to access the full benefit of DevOps is a thoughtful process that includes requirements gathering, executive sponsorship, vendor selection, tool configuration, testing, organization design changes, staff training, and more. Bringing in an expert partner as a DevOps “coach” can further improve your team’s odds of success.

If you do engage a partner, they should be able to respond to the specific needs of your team and offer flexible solutions that fit your objectives. Maybe you prefer a particular git repository, project management tool, or code deployment solution over another. Or perhaps you are a federal government agency with FedRAMP requirements to address. Every scenario is unique.

Getting support from the right provider allows your development team to focus on what they do best rather than being slowed down by vendor management issues, pipeline software patching, and tool configuration.

Meeting Security & Compliance

As PCI, SOX, FISMA, HIPAA, HITRUST, GDPR, and the many regional and state-level security and data privacy laws continue to evolve, compliance issues can introduce risk to a data-driven business.

A partner with DevOps expertise can be a significant help when it comes to security controls, industry regulations, and government mandates. This means working with experts who know how to make sense of regulations and tune the code pipeline to perform static and dynamic code analysis.

Statistics for Measuring DevOps Success  

It is easy to compare baseball players based on their statistics. For example, Hall of Fame hitters have high on base percentages, score runs, and hit for average. In the case of DevOps, there are key performance indicators that determine team performance.

For example, a decrease in support tickets may be a simple way of noting progress, but DevOps requires a more comprehensive set of measurements. High-achieving DevOps teams will view consistent or even accelerated deployment frequency as indicators of success – and will expect the volume of changes to trend upwards. In contrast, this team will be watching for the length of time it takes from development to deployment and the ratio of unsuccessful deployments and recovery time as stats that should be trending downward. 

Precise planning is equally important; accuracy of development estimates is another stat to measure over time. In each of these instances, you need a partner with experience tracking your stats. This kind of coaching can help your organization fix the flaws that are preventing these metrics from trending in the right direction. 

Post-Game Wrap Up

A DevOps methodology can produce higher-quality work faster, but it is hard to maintain momentum. Organizational silos, lack of coaching, and other roadblocks can all cause significant inefficiencies. 

For DevOps to work well, developers, operations staff, security teams, finance, and other business leaders must work together. A well-maintained CI/CD toolset that allows for consistent, secure, and compliant software is also important.

An experienced partner like Effectual can provide the necessary platform for strategic management and coaching. Combining DevOps experience, expertise, and execution with the flexibility to deliver support and follow through, we help you manage the expectations of your business leaders so software engineers can focus on what they do best.

Contact us to learn how we can help your team achieve DevOps success.

Al Sadowski is Senior VP of Product Management at Effectual, Inc. 

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