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Enterprise DevOps depends on executive support and collaboration

An enterprise DevOps overhaul at a considerable scale simply isn't possible, at least not in the long-term, without some form of executive support and ownership.

You'll hear it over and over again (and many times on this site alone): one of the most important aspects of DevOps is collaboration. If you want to actually implement DevOps in your enterprise, it needs to be a group effort.

While there are certainly some key players -- directors of operations and development particularly -- whose support is crucial, the bottom line is that everybody needs to be all in on DevOps for it to work. For some companies, however, the challenging part might be that "everybody" includes folks from the executive level.

"It is great to get a 'grassroots' effort up, and that approach often forms the core of a skunkworks or 'tiger team,' proving success, establishing a quick win, and demonstrating 'the art of the impossible,'" says Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk. "But a serious DevOps effort must have executive support – maybe not the CEO, possibly the CIO, and definitely a CDO, if you have one."

Initial DevOps application requires a drastic overhaul in dev and ops culture. And that, says Mann, is where the executives come in. That overhaul simply isn't possible, at least not in the long-term, without some form of executive support and ownership.

"In order to re-build the culture of dev and ops – and at a large enterprise, that means PMO, security, QA, and more – you must have a driver that 'owns' the many teams involved," he says. "Otherwise DevOps adoption will only get so far, and then [you] have to rebuild, again, to gather further support."

But at the end of the day, it's important that somebody actually, well, does something. Support is undoubtedly a good thing to have, but it means nothing if that's as far as a business gets. That's why leadership of an enterprise DevOps initiative -- DevOps at scale -- must also happen at lower levels, where collaboration ultimately plays out.

"[DevOps] can begin at the executive level, but the rubber really hits the road at the practitioner level," says Mann. "Empowering individuals in dev and ops teams to find a good way to collaborate and work together is key. Yes, executive support becomes critical – and not a bad way to support a practitioner-led proof of concept – but ultimately the practitioners in dev and ops need to find a way to do it themselves. You need buy-in from all levels."

That all said, these are simply general philosophies that are worth keeping in mind as you navigate through the challenges of DevOps implementation. Because the truth of the matter is that no two businesses are exactly alike, so how exactly DevOps takes shape within your organization depends on any number of unique factors.

"There is no 'right way' to do DevOps," says Mann. "Every journey is unique and based on an organization's business needs. If you are working together, communicating well, have a 'systems view' of application delivery, and work well as a team – you might just be doing DevOps!"

This was last published in June 2017

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