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The first step from Agile to DevOps is a pilot project

Agile to DevOps isn't as perilous as Waterfall to Agile, but it will take measurable goals and an efficient pilot project to limit initial friction and make it work.

This is the first of a five-part series on the digital transformation from Agile to DevOps

Speed, intelligence and superior stakeholder experiences are the core of digital transformation. Through emerging technologies, both employees and users can experience better outcomes. But companies need to invest time and resources in several key areas.

DevOps is one of the best methodologies to use if you want to deploy high-quality projects with a simple workflow. DevOps can play a leading role in business velocity and innovation. It's an evolutionary step beyond Agile development that makes the work world work better.

When it comes to application development, oftentimes the motto is faster, faster, faster. But speed is only half the battle. Quality is just as important. In fact, higher quality leads to higher speed.

Many organizations, however, have already committed to Agile development and are unsure how to make the transition from Agile to DevOps. I'll argue a successful transition involves people, processes and technology.

Set manageable goals

When you set your goals, don't aim for the sky. Choose specific, achievable and measurable goals, such as increasing the number of deployments a month from one to three, rather than something general, like increasing quality. A small number of goals, say three to five, is good.

Ensure all the team members know and understand the goals. This makes it easier for team members to pull together, and it should limit finger-pointing.

Once you've set your goals, begin a pilot program. This is a time-tested approach that gives you a glimpse of how DevOps will look at scale. The most successful pilot programs follow these rules:

  • Pay attention to detail. This will pay big dividends later. The best pilot programs require careful deliberation.
  • Make the pilot program small. The best pilots have well-defined and achievable targets.
  • Be flexible. When you start your pilot, you might not have all the technology or knowledge you will eventually need. Be ready to incorporate those things as you go.

Agile to DevOps needs group development

Ensure team members know and understand the goals. This makes it easier for team members to pull together.

A DevOps pilot is about far more than technology. DevOps transformations face significant organizational and human challenges. You will be bringing together multiple teams: development, operations and probably security. You'll need to find a tactical and strategic balance for each department working on the project. Each of these groups will bring with them their own distinct organizational culture, so it's essential to keep all involved parties excited and engaged. As you might expect, there will be some friction as the team goes through psychologist Bruce Tuckman's stages of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing.

Your pilot will be a proof of concept that these very different groups can work together with minimum conflict. To that end, training, coaching and team building are essential. 

With clear goals guiding your course and a pilot program underway, your Agile to DevOps transition is off to a good start. The journey to successful DevOps takes commitment, patience and persistence at each stage, but ultimately it will pay off.

In my next installment, I'll take a look at the important function of leadership and team building.

This was last published in October 2018

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