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