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How to Get DevOps Right

Small organizations with very few software updates can manually deploy changes, but as the company grows and more updates are deployed, it’s inevitable that a more hands-off solution is necessary for scalability and efficiency. After discussion, the usual solution is building a DevOps team and environment to streamline the software development lifecycle. DevOps can be a moneysaving boon to developers and the organization as a whole, but if done incorrectly, it can be costly, frustrating, and eventually development might give up on the new procedures. If done properly, however, it can save money, boost employee morale, and improve customer satisfaction.

Advantages and Benefits of DevOps

Implemented properly, DevOps has several advantages that benefit employees and the organization as a whole. It’s important to note that there is no “one size fits all” approach when developing a DevOps team. The way you design and plan the DevOps team will define the major benefits, but here are some advantages that your team and the business will experience:

Technical Benefits

  • Continuous integration and delivery (and eventually deployment): The secret behind efficient DevOps is automation.  Continuous integration (CI) is a method for building and testing code to avoid introducing bugs. Continuous delivery is a way to allow users to click a button and deploy everything with little manual interaction, and continuous deployment will automate promotion to production.
  • Automation reduces complexity and bottlenecks: With DevOps, you automate most processes that are currently running with manual intervention. Automation tools and testing will eliminate many of the delays due to bugs deployed into production and reduce the time it takes to schedule deployments.
  • Reduced bugs and faster remediation: DevOps reduces the number of bugs introduced into the production codebase, but should one creep into your production environment, it helps developers more rapidly discover and remediation issues.

Cultural Benefits

  • A more productive development team: With more automation, there will be fewer late nights and weekends for developers. Automation saves time for the team, so they can spend less time promoting and debugging code and more time developing new features.
  • More engagement: Developers who can focus on developing rather than fix bugs all day will have better engagement and ideas to improve software rather than constantly fixing it.

Business Benefits

  • Faster delivery and development: For businesses that rely heavily on software updates and feature requests, faster development means higher productivity.
  • Better software stability and reliability: With fewer production bugs, the business platform is more reliable and stable. This also incites customer trust in the business and its products.
  • Improved communication between operations and developers: Because DevOps is a group of operations and developer staff, you get better communication between the two departments. It’s not uncommon for both departments to have difficulty coming to an agreement over the way infrastructure should be configured to facilitate software features. When the team works together, agreements are made more quickly due to better communication.
  • Improved innovation: Because automation takes over many of the manual steps in the development lifecycle, developers have more time to design new features.

DevOps Steps to Success

Although there is no one size fits all, Gartner designed eight steps that lead to DevOps success. These best practices should be followed when designing your own DevOps plan. Organizations should always have a plan before moving departments into a DevOps team so that staff understand responsibilities, requirements, goals, and the tools needed to automate the development lifecycle. We’ll cover some Gartner best practices but inject our own to help boost business success.

1.Define a Business Use Case for DevOps

The development industry has many buzzwords, and DevOps is one that’s been introduced in recent years. Instead of following the latest trends, it’s best to define a business use case for any newly designed infrastructure, procedures, and major changes in the team environment. DevOps benefits any organization with software development, but the business should be aware of what it can do to save money, improve revenue, or simply improve the culture. For most businesses, the automation portion of DevOps speeds up software delivery, which translates to cost-savings, increased revenue, and better productivity.

2.Define Procedures and Choose Tools

To create a good cultural environment, anyone a part of the new DevOps initiative should be a part of the planning stage. By collaborating, DevOps will build procedures and a plan for the transition together and find a solution that works well for their team. Planning avoids costly mistakes and changes when operations and development officially cut over to the new team.

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are both strong factors in DevOps. You’ll see both these terms when finding the right balance between human interaction and procedures and automation. CI is the process of automating builds and testing. CD still requires a human to click a button, but delivery from staging to production is completely automated after the user clicks a button. The team should choose the tools that will facilitate both CI and CD and integrate well with current procedures. 

3.Build the DevOps Team

Organizations go with two ways to build a new DevOps team: use existing employees and create the new team or hire new staff members and build a team of new people. Because DevOps is a combination of operations and development, you need a team with several skills. You need people who understand automation and scripting, people who understand infrastructure and how it’s configured, and you need developers who work closely with current developers to determine testing and production procedures. 

If you decide to build a team with new employees, it might be worth putting this step before the previous one so that new employees can have a say in the tools and culture for the team. The team should determine process flow as they know what is most efficient, effective, and makes business sense.

4.Establish Goals and Review Metrics

If you don’t already have some logged metrics, it’s critical that you establish a system that calculates several metrics so that you can identify bottlenecks, establish priorities, find opportunities for improved performance, and reduce failures and bugs. A few metrics that can help get you started include:

  • Deployment frequency: How often are new features deployed?
  • Change volume: How often must the code change to remediate bugs? Note that deployment frequency should not increase change volume.
  • Test-to-deployment time: How long does it take to get code from testing to production?
  • Number of failed deployments: How many times does deployment to production fail and must be rolled back?
  • Number of outages due to code changes: How many times is there downtime due to a change in production code?
  • Detection time: How long does it take for developers to detect a critical issue?
  • Average time to recovery: How long does it take to remediate a bug or outage after an issue is discovered?
  • Lead time: How long does it take after a new feature gets approval to the time it’s deployed to production?
  • Defect escape: How many bugs are discovered by end-users rather than developers during testing or review of production code?
  • Defect volume: How many bugs are introduced after code changes?

5.Prioritize Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks cost money due to productivity constraints. The reason behind the bottlenecks could be anything from human error, inefficient tools or procedures, scheduling constraints, or mistakes in the deployment process. Prioritizing the procedures that cost the organization the most money will help with DevOps success and its adoption by business executives.

6.Define Tool Configurations and Thoroughly Test Them

Once you determine the tools that the team will use, they must determine the way these tools will integrate into the current environment. Where the tools are installed and their configurations will determine if they work well during automation. Of course, all configurations and procedures should be thoroughly tested before putting them into a production environment.

Automation tools will eventually be added to staging, so you need tools that can be configured in staging not just testing environments. You might need several tools to accomplish DevOps goals, and all should be tested with the proposed configurations.

7.Design for Scaling

You might have one application to support today, but as the business grows you might have dozens of new features introduced across multiple applications. To support scaling, you should also consider using cloud resources, which work well with DevOps and automation tools. If you choose tools that don’t scale, you will be replacing them in the future, which costs time and money and it can delay deployments.

Instead of allocating resources that can only handle current processes, choose tools and resources that can be scaled up or down in the future. Again, the cloud is a great tool for scaling and should be considered especially if other departments already have cloud infrastructure configured.

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