In a today’s fast-paced world, businesses that need to become agile and lean to quickly deliver innovation, cut costs, and improve quality are increasingly starting to adopt DevOps.

They are eager to maximize the speed of delivery of their software both internally and externally, since not only their customers but their own teams and departments require easy to use and high performing applications and services.

However, with DevOps, like with most new approaches, the actual implementation can turn into a hassle.

For many business owners and managers, DevOps is only a buzzword. Their IT organizations experiment with “pockets of DevOps” instead of seeing a complete DevOps transformation as the next big thing to achieve operational excellence of their businesses.

Eventually, this results in greater misalignment between traditionally siloed development and operations departments, lack of collaboration culture and process automation, which is the opposite to what DevOps should be doing — ensure fast and faultless delivery of software and reduce as much waste as possible on the enterprise-wide level.

And that cost them… a lot!

Fortunately, it is possible to make DevOps work for any software-driven business — be it a small IT boutique firm or a Fortune 500 corporation.

In this article, I am sharing five practical “how-to” tips and tricks that will help your organization create a healthy DevOps environment on the enterprise-wide level.

1.Start Small

Though enterprises start to fully enjoy the benefits of DevOps once it gets implemented throughout the development and delivery pipelines enterprise-wide, it makes sense to transform your organization one piece at a time.

The slow adoption process ensures that your employees have room to learn what DevOps is and to start utilizing its best practices without resistance to change.

On top of that, you are better off introducing DevOps to a smaller team working in an isolated environment. By doing so, you will be able to:

  1. Overcome employees’ resistance to change. Move slowly by adding practices, routines, and tools that are commonly used in the DevOps environment one after another. For instance, you can start utilizing Puppet instead of one of your traditional manual management systems to showcase automation potential.
  2. Avoid delays. Large-scale products take too many resources to manage. In the meantime, smaller products are more flexible; and, even if you make a mistake implementing DevOps, you will be able to fix it quickly and to avoid long delays in the development and delivery process.
  3. Showcase tangible results to get the management buy-in. Provided you achieved your DevOps objectives with one team on a small scale, you will easier get a buy-in from the executives to scale up the success organization-wide.

This approach also guarantees that your entire business environment will not become worthless should your DevOps experiment fail.

However, do not make the mistake of selectively implementing certain elements of DevOps, such as specific culture practices or tools. This will only create chaos and make a quick end to your DevOps initiative.

Remember: One DevOps Team + One Product = Successful DevOps Environment Implementation

Bonus tip: When choosing a team to try DevOps, do not go too small. You do not want your DevOps initiative to be seen as a hobby, or as an unimportant sidekick. However, if all you have is a very small team, at the very least make sure that it has scoping potential.

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2.Establish Quality Metrics

Continuous monitoring and validating of operational quality is one of the most important capabilities of DevOps.

Unfortunately, too many companies fail when establishing a simple and connected process of keeping track of operational quality in environments other than production environment, with metrics being the culprit.

In a fully-functional DevOps environment, the metrics are not limited to production and have to be collected and thoroughly analyzed whenever a piece of software is deployed and tested.

That being said, when we think DevOps, monitoring and validation of operations quality should always be performed earlier in the life cycle.

Since a piece of software is monitored, analyzed, and validated throughout its life cycle, enterprises need to establish metrics that all participants can understand and use to enhance or change specific features of a product and/or activities needed to deliver a product.

While the metrics may vary, here are four major metrics to consider:

  1. Deployment frequency
  2. Change lead time
  3. Change failure rate
  4. Mean time to recovery (MTTR)

Bear in mind that efficient collaboration within IT-organization is key to DevOps success. Thus, make sure that all participants have found common ground about the metrics to measure it.

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3.Embrace ChatOps

Since DevOps is a culture of automation, development, and sharing, it makes sense that efficient communication is vital to truly successful collaboration of development and operations departments on the enterprise-wide level.

And here is when ChatOps, an extension of the DevOps movement, should be used.

ChatOps (short for chat and operations) is a way of bringing messaging applications into the conversation that is happening between teams and departments to ease their integration and to produce better results, in one single window.

To quote Wikipedia:

ChatOps is a collaborative, conversation-centric way of working that brings people, discussions, bots, tools and files together in one central location: the workplace messaging app.

Simply put, ChatOps is all about reducing the noise and assisting the teams to work in a more efficient and agile way by using collaboration tools (e.g. Slack, HipChat), bots (e.g. Lita, Cog, Hubot), and system integration tools (e.g. JIRA, GitHub, Swarm, Puppet, Jenkins, Cabana, etc.).

The implementation of ChatOps will help your business:

  1. Amplify feedback loops by reducing the noise
  2. Harmonize collaboration between teams and departments in the IT organization
  3. Build trust among the team by efficiently sharing results with the participants
  4. Encourage team members to produce better results in a soft manner
  5. Control pipelines in one window

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4.Ensure Active Participation of Organization’s Stakeholders

In DevOps, stakeholders work on multiple projects and may be distributed across multiple locations, with no negative effect on their performance.

DevOps impacts a whole business by making it more lean and agile, and by reinforcing its ability to faster deliver innovation to customers. This is why, it requires the involvement of all stakeholders within the IT organization — from technical hands-on team of software developers and testers, automation architects, security engineers, infrastructure and release managers to higher level managerial units that care for results the most.

Bear in mind that if any stakeholder or participant is excluded, DevOps environment will be incomplete, which may lead to operational errors, slower delivery times, and loss of revenue in the future.

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5.Align Your Application, Infrastructure, and Full Stack Pipelines

If your organization is new to DevOps and operates using manual ITIL-based infrastructure, most likely you and your team do not know how to start adopting DevOps to your processes and workflows.

You should start small, but how?

To avoid confusion, it makes sense to start off by aligning your application, infrastructure, and full stack pipelines.

Here is how:

  1. Create a new process for your application releases. This step includes making changes to issuing Pull Requests, running code reviews, creating Release Artifacts, restarting the instances with copied artifacts, pushing DB migrations and updates. On top of that, enhance processes within your CI/CD pipeline here.
  2. Adapt the infrastructure pipeline to the DevOps and CI/CD requirements. Ideally, developers should be responsible for helping the infrastructure team. However, since infrastructure is code-dependent, its pipeline can be totally different, with components that can only be accessible by the infrastructure team.
  3. Synchronize changes of the pipelines. All changes pushed to both pipelines have to be synchronized, that is, to be version controlled and mutually deployed. Use CI/CD tools to create and set up your full stack pipeline.

Fine-tuning of application, infrastructure, and full stack pipelines takes time and resources. Yet, it is totally worth it. It enables you to automate everything and ensures that all changes are stored in one branch for further use in different environments and with different input parameters.

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Healthy DevOps environment is not something you can build overnight. It requires teams and departments not only to learn new tools and techniques, but to adopt an entirely new culture of communication, collaboration, and sharing.

These five practical how-to’s of DevOps will help you do the trick. Start small, align and finetune pipelines, engage with stakeholders, work out DevOps success metrics, and ensure that you rely on ChatOps to create a healthy and efficient DevOps environment from the very beginning.

Yevhen Duma

Senior DevOps Consultant at SQUADEX

Yevhen has more than ten years of professional IT experience, developing and delivering consumer and enterprise applications, infrastructure and process improvement projects for various scale businesses. His experience at all software development stages allows for better understanding of business needs and improved processes by utilizing established DevOps tools backed by the best Agile practices.

His area of expertise includes software development lifecycle, version control, CI/CD, Atlassian JIRA, Service Desk, Confluence, Bitbucket, Slack, Flowdock, as well as virtualization, cloud platforms, and their automation.