Digital IT: From Continuous Delivery Efficiency to DevOps Business Benefits

This article was initially published as part of my contribution to DevOps.com with the title of What Can Digital Transformation Do for You?

Contrary to what the massive articles around digital transformation suggest, your business lines’ primary concern isn’t the amazing technology innovations that pop up every day but how well they’re going to deal with your industry’s disruption. Something is sure, your IT organization’s digital transformation cannot be narrowed to technology changes; that’s a simplistic vision which ignores the disruptive impacts on businesses, particularly on the IT function.

Howard King, writing in “What is Digital Transformation?” published in The Guardian, makes it clear, “Transformation is a whole scale change to the foundational components of a business: from its operating model to its infrastructure. What it sells, to whom and how it goes to market.” He’s right, the business-oriented vision of IT demands a transformation of your IT organization including its infrastructure, applications delivery approach and operating model, and DevOps increasingly is cited as the foundation of the new IT.

This article shares my experience and lessons learned implementing DevOps as the foundation of digital IT organizations.

Top Priority: Dealing with Your Industry Disruption

The belief that implementing a continuous delivery infrastructure is all your business need to survive digital disruptions is a marketing hype DevOps practitioners have grown accustomed to. It’s a myth that prevents you from making informed digital transformation decisions. Emphasizing the technology at the expense of your industry’s disruption forces you to make technology change prematurely; your priority actually should be to figure out how to deal with the disruptions hitting your industry.

Ask yourself this: What’s the interest in investing in scattered continuous delivery infrastructure implementations, when your favorite vendors and consultants aren’t able to clearly address these concerns:

  • How can you restructure your business value stream to make it lean and agile so that the right services are timely delivered to the right market segments?
  • How can you integrate DevOps, IT as a service, cloud, Internet of Things and big data into a coherent and consistent business capability so that the right services are timely delivered to the right market segments?
  • What’s the architecture of your future information system, including your virtual data center and application delivery infrastructure?
  • What will your role be as the CIO? How will the relationships with your business lines and vendors be managed?

Make no mistake about it, these are your business line concerns of the moment. Unless you address them, Chef, Puppet, CodeDeploy or any other software application alone won’t help to keep up the pace imposed by Uber, Apple, Google and the like. You’ll need to bring together your business and IT staff in a lean and agile capability, which demands a re-engineering of your IT structure, processes, practices and governance.

DevOps is the Foundation of Your Digital IT Organization

Let’s remove the ambiguity: Infrastructure as code isn’t DevOps. The increasing confusion of DevOps with continuous delivery infrastructure is slowly but surely killing it—it’s even disqualifying it as a competitive advantage. That vision focused on tools has nothing to do with the logic underneath DevOps.

As I’ve been making clients happy with it, DevOps is primarily an application delivery model that seeks to make businesses responsive to market opportunities through accelerating added-value applications delivery and with the goal of continuously generating value. It’s based on three principles helping businesses survive digital disruptions, then grow and prosper:

  • Using continuous delivering infrastructure to speed application delivery doesn’t make sense unless tangible business benefits are generated.
  • Applications are the means by which value is brought to customers and business benefits are brought in.
  • Agile principles across your software development life cycle makes your value stream lean and agile which in turn results in continuous value.
DevOps Delivery Model - Philippe Abdoulaye
DevOps Delivery Model – (Credit: Philippe Abdoulaye – ITaaS Now LLC)

The delivery model uses three levers to implement the above principles and establish DevOps as the foundation of your digital IT, they include:

  • The rules of the game, which are agreed-upon principles, practices, roles and responsibilities and tools institutionalized to ensure agility and accelerated applications delivery;
  • The operating model, which is the lean and agile work environment resulting from the application of the rules of the game; and
  • The continuous delivery infrastructure, which is a platform that leverages infrastructure-as-code solutions to accelerate applications development and deployment.

The Digital IT Organization: Approach, Principles, Tools

Success in IT organization transformations often come more from a stream of small wins than from a one-time flood. That’s what I call incremental transformation, illustrated in the following digital five-stage transformation journey:

The digital IT organization implementation process
The transformation journey – (Credit: Philippe Abdoulaye – ITaaS Now LLC)

The following recommendations definitely will make you instrumental to your IT transformation and help your business meet the digital economy’s competitive challenges.

Strategize

A CIO who’s expected to help business lines survive their industry’s disruption, grow and prosper first must clarify their business objectives; estimate potential gains, losses, and risks; and create a consensus on the DevOps delivery model to implement in terms of high-level architecture and implementation timing. That’s the purpose of the Strategize stage.

Never skip this stage—it’s where the executive buy-in is obtained and the vision of the future IT capability is developed. Make sure the following is accomplished:

  • Creating an executive task force co-led by the CIO and a business representative;
  • Scheduling one to three workshops addressing your transformation business case, transformation road map, high-level blueprint of the future IT capability and the DevOps adoption plan;
  • Designating a project manager; and
  • Communication by task force members regarding the whys and wherefores of the transformation initiative.

Plan

Digital transformation involves many functions within your business in the form of a cross-functional team: the concerned business and IT staff. Your responsibility as the CIO is to bring the voice of the business across the transformation journey, from business objectives clarification, to design and implementation, to pilot experiment, to deployment.

Again, do not overlook this stage—it’s about translating the effort into team structure, implementation schedules and operational and strategic reviews. It’s where the risks likely to hamper projected objectives are anticipated. Make sure workshops involving the business and IT are set up to address the following:

  • Team structure and roles and responsibilities;
  • Transformation road map steps translated into operational timelines associated along with expected outcomes; and
  • The project’s operational and strategic reviews, including a risk management plan.

Design and Implementation

The third stage is when the three dimensions of the digital IT organization are designed and implemented. They include the DevOps rules of the game, the operating model and the continuous delivery infrastructure.

Never improvise this stage—use a proven approach to address the dimensions. Favor a collaborative approach that includes workshops or brainstorming sessions with the concerned business and IT staff.

In the rules of the game brainstorming sessions, make sure the following is addressed:

  • Organization and operational dysfunctions preventing cross-functional collaboration, rapid problem-solving and decision-making;
  • Recommendations to the dysfunctions in terms of agile processes, practices, roles and responsibilities and tools;
  • Recommendations mapping to the appropriate DevOps principles, practices, roles and responsibilities and governance structure; and
  • The IT organization’s DevOps charter, thought to accelerate the rules of the game and the operating model adoption.

In the continuous delivery infrastructure workshops make sure the following is addressed:

  • A delivery pipeline, including steps and for each of them what follows:
    • Required staff, skills and background
    • Implementation, testing and deployment agile processes and practices
    • Implementation, testing and deployment tools, such as Chef, Jenkins or CodePipeline

Experiment

For this stage, set up a pilot experiment involving, in a small-scale real-business setting, a panel of business and IT staff to evaluate the likelihood of the project benefits.

Neither skip nor overlook that step, it’s where improvements are identified. Throughout the pilot project, make sure the following is in place:

  • Executive task force monitoring the pilot project through bi-weekly reviews;
  • Concerned business lines and IT business lines are involved;
  • Training campaigns are organized around the DevOps charter, the operating model and the continuous delivery infrastructure;
  • Strategic management tools, such as balanced scorecards to monitor progress, risks and achievements; and
  • Measurement of the impacts of the operating model and the continuous delivery infrastructure against the projected benefits.

Deploy

This final stage is a Go-No-Go milestone in which your task force, based on the pilot’s outcome, decides whether to deploy your digital IT capability at the scale of the company. Throughout the deployment:

  • Capitalize on the benefits generated by the pilot experiment to launch an information campaign emphasizing the benefits for the company and for the staff; and
  • Train business and IT staff on the DevOps charter, the operating model and the continuous delivery infrastructure.

Wrapping up

Today’s DevOps practices focused on continuous delivery infrastructure aren’t likely to help businesses grow and prosper in the digital economy. Thought leader Joe McKendrick in, “The road to digital bliss is paved with service thinking and DevOps,” confirms that fact.

The approach discussed in this article are detailed in my recent book, written to help make IT leaders instrumental to their business digital transformation:

Rethink Your IT with DevOps

If you’re considering a DevOps-focused IT transformation, what will be your first steps? I’d love to hear your thoughts, let’s meet @TheFutureOfYourIT.

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All You Need to Know about Aligning Your IT to DevOps: Insider Perspectives

Picture Credited to Saugatuck Technology
Picture Credited to Saugatuck Technology

Hi All,

During March and April 2016, we’ll make the case for DevOps and  tell you what you need to know about its implementation and adoption. For this March, I share my thoughts about what I consider the greatest articles about DevOps:

  • The case for transforming your IT organization to DevOps: feedback on Cisco’s Dave Robert’s masterpiece “Why Enterprise DevOps doesn’t make sense.Read (…)
  • Why the fundamentals of the Complete ITaaS Delivery Model™ are increasingly adopted: comments on V3 Broadsuite’s Shelly Kramer’s excellent “ITaaS: Future of the CIO.Read (…)

We  provide IT leaders and  practitioners with the latest techniques,  ideas, insights, best practices and most thoughtful advices from the world’s leading digital transformation influencers.

Get the Actionable Solutions You Need: It’s at ITaaS Now (…)

Regards,
Philippe A. Abdoulaye
ITaaS Now LLC
Founder and CEO
+1 (646) 688-2228

Why Enterprise DevOps will make IT organizations and CIOs relevant

Available by January 10, 2016.
Available by January 10, 2016. Click to know more about the Complete ITaaS Delivery Model™

Digital business is changing the competitive environment; the proliferation of startups created by highly qualified unemployed seniors and entrepreneurs, the increasing adoption of cloud which reduces IT cost and the Internet of Things substituting traditional services with digital services are forcing business lines (BL) to opt for new paradigms. Market responsiveness achieved through flexible IT environments is what they need; extending DevOps to competitive and revenue issues and establishing it as the foundation of IT operating models is what’ll make IT organizations relevant. That’s what enterprise DevOps is about.

Why DevOps initiatives struggle to meet BL expectations

Despite its accelerated adoption, DevOps remains either misunderstood or improperly implemented. Today’s implementation approaches have several weaknesses:

  • Market responsiveness confusion with application delivery acceleration
  • DevOps confusion with automation tools
  • CIOs’ lack of IT transformation strategy

Market responsiveness isn’t about speed but timely revenue

One of the reasons certain DevOps initiatives don’t generate business benefits is, 90 percent of IT consultants misunderstand market responsiveness; they erroneously narrow it to the capacity to deliver software at the speed of light. Simply put, market responsiveness relates to the continuous and accelerated delivery of added-value services, the bottom line isn’t speed but timely revenue.

In fact, what BLs expect from IT is a greater focus on added-value priorities and the ability to absorb unpredictable market turbulences; that fact is substantiated by Patrick Phillips, in a bombshell “IT must adapt or die” he alerts “Five years ago less than 25 percent of business leaders rated their IT function effective at delivering the capabilities they need. Today that number hasn’t changed. IT functions have strived tirelessly to understand demand, set priorities, deliver effectively, and capture value, yet the results still disappoint.”

Narrowing DevOps to tools is ignoring its competitive advantages

Another factor preventing business benefits is, most consultants confuse DevOps with application deployment infrastructure, they see it from the distorted lenses of application deployment automation tools.

The tool dimension is erroneously considered more important than any other value drivers such as market understanding, cross-functional collaboration as well as accelerated problem solving and decision making. Adam Jacob, early proponent of DevOps and co-founder of Chef the leading IT-automation firm is clear about it,Fundamentally DevOps is about taking the behaviors and beliefs that draw us together as people, combining them with a deep understanding of our customer’s needs, and using that knowledge better products.” To read more…

Implementing DevOps is transforming your IT organization to the new style of IT

My advise to CIOs is, “Implement DevOps as a transformation of your IT organization and don’t narrow it to a technology change initiative.” Strictly speaking, DevOps is disruptive and 70 percent of its business benefits depend on how well non-technological impediments to revenue are eliminated.

As illustrated, Enterprise DevOps is changing today’s IT service delivery paradigm, it’s taking IT organizations to the so-called new style of IT. In addition to leveraging cloud solutions’ benefits and forcing CIOs to consider value drivers like organizational efficiency and cross-functional collaboration, it places application delivery and customer experience at the heart of the CIO’s strategy:

enterprise devops

Considering that applications are the means by which value is brought to customers, Enterprise DevOps builds on two primary capabilities: the agile and collaborative IT environment referred to as the IT operating model and the continuous delivery pipeline (CDP).

CDPs accelerate the delivery of expected value

The CDP is the technological piece consultants and vendors have been reducing DevOps to. Concretely speaking, it’s a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) which leverages infrastructure as code (IAC) mechanisms to automate, therefore, accelerate three stages of the application development life cycle including:

  • Continuous integration
  • Quality assurance
  • Deployment

The self-service and on-demand nature of the PaaS services e.g., server provisioning, server configuration, and application deployment eliminates the drawbacks of manual IT including costs and resource provisioning lead time.

Agile IT operating models eliminate operational impedements to value

The operating model is the non-technological piece most experts and vendors have been ignoring. It’s a set of principles clarifying the rules to accelerate problem solving and decision-making; business and IT practices as well as the roles needed to deliver added-value priorities; and governance structure implemented in the form of Change Advisory Board (CAB) putting together business and IT executives to assess priorities, keep IT staff focused on them and deliver executive leadership. The bottom line is to make the IT organization agile and responsive to market opportunities and turbulences.

Takeaway

Enterprise DevOps isn’t the complex technology stacks promoted by vendors; it’s a set of practices combining infrastructure as code mechanisms and organizational efficiency leveraged to equip BLs with the only asset they need to prosper in the digital economy: market responsiveness.

I can’t agree more with Adam Jacob on this, “Today there is a noisy market in teaching people how to do DevOps, or in tools that enable DevOps. Vendor after vendor will tell you they have the magical solution to this difficult business problem.”