Development managers who want to move to DevOps, or scale it, can't get around what can be a tricky negotiation with the CFO about budget and staff changes. When you translate DevOps into a language your CFO understands, though, it adds another executive sponsor for DevOps to your corner.
Here are some suggestions about how to talk with your CFO about the value of DevOps.
Align with business users
Joey Jablonski, vice president and CTO of Cloud Technology Partners, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, advised software managers to align early with customers -- both end and internal. This will help ensure an understanding of how application development affects business outcomes.
The more aligned the team can be with business users, the more the conversation about the value of DevOps with the CFO will be in a language they actually understand.
Be ready to talk DevOps tools
Your CFO might ask, "What tools do you need?" But be ready for "How much will they cost?"
To start, explain open source DevOps tools. The prospect of cost savings with open source might get your CFO's attention. Rada Sethuraman, CTO of CodeLathe, pointed out that even a large enterprise will need to factor in fee-based commercial support for open source DevOps tools when it comes time to scale.
Look to competitors for the value of DevOps
When Jablonski does an executive readout, he starts with a look at what the benchmarks say about the most successful players in their industry. Then, he explains how the competitors do things, but this is not a suggestion to emulate another's success. The key is to follow trends in team structure and product releases and then test those new theories in the market. It is important to be part of those industry conversations. And right now, as your CFO should know, the conversation is about DevOps.
Speak the language of rapid prototyping
One way to get the CFO's attention is to use rapid prototyping to prove out concepts with real numbers and data, explained Said Ouissal, CEO and co-founder of Zededa. His advice: Approach a meeting with the CFO armed with some PowerPoint slides, ROI expectations, and a small-scale prototype of a system that, upon approval, you can scale out and show a larger concept on. Ouissal's method uses available tools that keep a prototype within your departmental budget and also help improve budget discussions with your CFO.
His approach can even work during an initial DevOps pitch, where you can demonstrate a CI/CD toolchain to your CFO and show an automated build of an application.
Treat your CFO as a long-lost DevOps sponsor
CTOs and CIOs are the traditional executive sponsors of DevOps. But what about your CFO? Can that role be a DevOps sponsor too? Keep in mind the CFO is the executive responsible for measuring the business and may even be in charge of the HR department -- a key cog in any DevOps transformation.
Jablonski advised a focus on a few tangible metrics the whole organization can rally around. Don't go metrics wild. Get input from your CFO about information they want to track including the following:
- release quality;
- number of support calls; and
- time it takes for a feature to go from concept to production.
In the HR portion of your conversation, Jablonski suggested an emphasis on the paramount importance of executive leadership and how DevOps provides a path for employees to move into new roles. Articulate a DevOps roadmap that shows the journey over the next 18 months. Folks will need to be ready to learn new skills, change their job descriptions or work under new functional owners. It's important to work with the CFO to ensure a positive DevOps message trickles down into HR channels.
Often, it's the CFO who initiated the DevOps process with a request of the CTO and CIO to increase innovation while also lowering budgets. Luckily DevOps can do that. If the CFO issues that directive, all execs must band together to help enable Agile in practice so product teams can get to market more efficiently. That's the value of DevOps. When you come armed with data and prototypes, you have the tools to forge such a partnership.
You should treat your CFO as the missing DevOps sponsor because, as Jablonski explained, "At the end of the day, they're the one who's accountable for measuring the business. And everything about DevOps is about improving our time to value, improving our time to market, ensuring better-quality releases. Those directly correlate with what the CFO is trying to do and [it helps] manage the business in a rigorous way."