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Leading DevOps as a High-Impact Cultural Movement

Much has been written about Development and Operations (DevOps). It characterizes a new type of collaborative relationship between two traditionally siloed functions in an IT enterprise—those who develop software applications and those who operate and maintain them. The goal is to increase velocity and scale in delivering new functionality into the hands of users. To help bridge the divide between these two teams, new methods have been designed to foster collaboration, guarantee requisite quality assurance and testing and leverage automation.  

What’s not new is the need for strong leadership at the helm. Fundamentally, DevOps is a cultural movement. Such a major change requires leaders committed to breaking down silos, creating a customer-centered vision and galvanizing multiple constituencies to follow with excitement. So, spearheading a truly transformative DevOps initiative relies on some of the tried-and-true guiding principles for leading major change, which include the following:   

Make the case for change

Create a sense of urgency for change. This step, which is often overlooked by leaders, is critical for gaining the cooperation required to drive a significant change effort in an organization. Common DevOps drivers across U.S. public sector organizations include the following:

  • Meeting growing demands for secure citizen services
  • Aligning mission with the realities of rapidly-evolving adversaries and shrinking decision cycles
  • Increasing innovation
  • Managing within constrained IT life cycle costs

Keep in mind that frequent communication across all levels of an organization is critical for making a case for change.

Achieve alignment

DevOps leaders play a key role of “organizational architect.” They must take a long-term view, build a shared vision, influence others to translate the vision into action and measure progress. People are far more motivated and energized when they are connected to a higher purpose of service to the world, their customers and their community. The DevOps strategic objectives, priorities and implementation plans must clearly align with the long-term interests of the organization. DevOps requires rolling out change with an approach that matches its essence — people-centered, feedback-driven and agile — seeing the organization from a system perspective. A coordinated approach to human capital management is essential to ensure the right behaviors and outcomes. This includes moving people in who will advance the agenda, moving people out who are blockers and incentivizing strategic change behaviors.

Secure early wins

Early wins build credibility and positive momentum. Early in the process, DevOps leaders need to identify ways to create value and improve mission results and widely communicate achievements across the organization and among stakeholders. Some examples of early DevOps achievements include the following:

  • Tangible outcomes of cross-team collaboration
  • Team training of new methodologies
  • Quick ramp-up of third-party tools
  • Automated deployment
  • New processes that are documented and synched with configuration management and testing
  • Readily available developer templates to follow

Measurable results resonate strongly among stakeholders, such as the percentage increase in the average number of releases per month, percentage of reduced deployment time of enhancements and percentage increase of numbers of users of the DevOps platform. DevOps leaders need to remain open to new information and unconventional approaches, often enabled by giving first-line employees a strong voice and bringing new partners to the table.

Create coalitions

A DevOps leader’s success depends on their ability to influence people outside of their direct line of control. One of the most critical relationships is between the government and contractor program managers. We have found the greatest likelihood of DevOps success when there is a strong sense of team and shared risk between the two organizations. Both sides lean forward together in planning the DevOps journey, proactively adjust skill sets and resources when trying new techniques and collaboratively manage project risk. Other critical relationships are the inclusion of application users, third-party developers and security officials in the requirements review, quality check and testing. 

So if you’re in or stepping into a DevOps leadership role, keep your perspective broad, beyond the new programmatics and tools. Know you’re undertaking a major organizational change initiative. The future you are creating relies on the following:

  • A collaboratively created vision
  • A workforce engaged in making the case for change
  • An architecture aligned with the organization
  • Creation of supportive coalitions, are all critical to enabling success

If you’re heading to GEOINT 2017, stop by the DXC Technology booth #1541 for more information on DevOps.

Read more about how DXC implements DevOps for our government customers.

This content is made possible by our sponsor. The editorial staff of Government Executive was not involved in its preparation.

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