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Four key lessons to apply from DevOps success stories

Take a DevOps team and make it a DevOps company. This is easier said than done, of course. Atlassian's Roger Barnes offers four things to keep in mind.

For teams in small organizations, embracing and applying DevOps practices is often a matter of just doing it. There are fewer constraints, fewer moving parts, and most of the time development and operations skills are already aligned and close together -- on the same team, if not the same person, which makes for many DevOps success stories.

For large organizations, though, any transformation can be daunting. Complex development programs and traditional org structure can result in no shortage of failed attempts for established teams. But the potential of significantly faster, better software delivery is also very real and impactful.

So, what can large enterprises do about DevOps?

Inevitably, certain teams in a large organization will find a way to achieve moderate DevOps success stories organically, even if the organization doesn’t provide the right tools, infrastructure and support. Such successful transformations tend to show up on greenfield projects with a progressive leader, where the team can assemble people with the required skills, choose the way they want to work and build up tooling to match.

For leaders looking to implement DevOps practices across an entire organization, such progressive teams present a great opportunity to scale success. You've got a bright spot -- a working model of a high-performing team. All you have to do is replicate what that team did for more DevOps success stories. Easy, right? Not so fast. There is a range of ways to scale DevOps adoption across teams the wrong way. Here are four steps to get you on the right path:

Do not force DevOps as a concept

First, don't "do DevOps" to your teams. No one likes to be told what to do, especially if they don't know why they're doing it. Instead, show teams how you can make them successful and be mindful that not everyone on the team will be interested in learning. At Atlassian, we use techniques from our Team Playbook to get teams on the same page.

Learn DevOps by practicing

The best way to learn DevOps is by doing.

The best way to learn DevOps is by doing. People change their mindsets based on behavior, not by reading books about DevOps success stories or sitting around a fire chanting DevOps mantras. A large telco I've spoken with established a program for teams to practice applying DevOps practices to their own work in a guided series of sprints on a compressed timescale. The aim is for teams to experience what it feels like to work differently, so that they can then take their learnings back and apply them to their workstreams.

Embark on a DevOps journey

DevOps adoption, like making software, isn't something you do all at once. Many teams get lost or frustrated because they aim straight for the top of the mountain. DevOps is a journey.

Fortify Agile with DevOps and destroy silos

The term "Agile DevOps" isn't well-known throughout development and IT communities, but Jennifer Lent, freelance business and technology writer, argues that "Agile DevOps" is very much the future of software. It will offer a roadmap for businesses to develop, deliver and update, and most of all, stay ahead.

When working with software teams at different levels of maturity, it helps to lay out the journey to DevOps ahead of time so teams can orient themselves. For example, a Fortune 100 insurance company rolled out a simple guide to help teams assess their practices, plan out a path to improvement and decide which from an integrated set of supported tools would work best.

DevOps success stories need collaboration

While the steps above are about the cultural underpinnings of successful DevOps transformations, tools are important too. As DevOps adoption seeps throughout an organization, it naturally creates a common collaboration layer that teams can use, adapt to and integrate with the unique parts of their individual pipelines.

Teams might be working on a broad range of projects -- mobile apps, websites, back-end systems -- each with unique needs. But they all need to plan, discuss, track, store, review, test and deploy their work. A common foundation helps new teams spin up and makes it easier to move people between teams. In addition, security and risk folks, program and portfolio managers, system administrators and others also stand to gain when they can interface with fewer tools, and when teams use the same language and base constructs.

In short, a common platform provides economies of scale, consistency between teams, and reduced risk and compliance overhead. The DevOps success stories in one area of the company suddenly become possible for many. What follows is a ripple effect where the software team drives value for the rest of the business, and that's when the promise of DevOps truly shines.

This was last published in January 2018

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