If you’re a decision maker for a Small or Medium-Sized Business (SMB), finding a market edge through technology can be both invaluable and daunting. Unlike large enterprises, you may not have a deep roster of technical expertise on staff to conceptualize and execute on large technological initiatives. But, also unlike large enterprises, bringing a new technological tool or service to your firm’s business offering can provide an outsized advantage over your similar-sized rivals because those rivals are also less likely to have the deep pockets and tech resources that a large enterprise would. It’s not just features or products that make a difference, though — the way your organization approaches technology can have a massive impact on you, your customers and your market edge. That’s where DevOps comes in.
So how does that work?
At its best, DevOps unifies people, process, and technology to bring better products to customers faster. Changing your mindset and staffing approach to embrace DevOps can legitimately revolutionize your company (and its future prospects).
What is DevOps anyway?
‘DevOps’ the word is a combination of development and operations. That portmanteau isn’t just clever wordplay, though — it represents a novel approach to team building, software development, staffing… really your entire firm’s outlook. So what exactly is it?
At its base level, DevOps coordinates and fuses formerly siloed roles— things like development, IT operations, quality engineering, security, etc. By breaking down these silos to better coordinate and collaborate, your company and its technology operations can produce more reliable products. As Microsoft concluded, adopting a “DevOps culture along with DevOps practices and tools, teams gain the ability to better respond to customer needs, increase confidence in the applications they build, and achieve business goals faster.”
DevOps for application development
When we’re focusing on software or app development, DevOps typically divides the lifecycle into four stages: Plan, Develop, Deliver, Operate.
In the plan phase, DevOps teams ideate, define, and describe features and capabilities of the applications and systems they are building. The develop phase includes all aspects of coding — writing, testing, reviewing, and integration of that code. Delivery is the process of deploying applications into production environments in a consistent and reliable way. The operate phase involves maintaining, monitoring, and troubleshooting applications in production environments.
These stages are present in every application development regardless of outlook. But instead of the classic version of app development where one team or one individual owns a particular stage that most aligns with their job title, in a DevOps framework, each team is responsible for each stage together. For example, developers are responsible not only for innovation and quality in the develop phase, but also for stellar performance and stability in the operate phase (especially as it relates to changes their development decisions lead to in the operate phase). Likewise, IT operators have to keep an eye out for governance, security, and compliance in the plan and develop phase, not just the operate phase.
Beyond breaking down silos and accountability barriers, though, DevOps also reimagines the entire way you develop and deliver software. DevOps increases agility by design because you typically release software in shorter cycles. When you have a shorter release cycle, that makes planning, risk management and system stability impact easier and more manageable because progress is more incremental. Instead of releasing a huge new suite of products or features in one giant dump, you make smaller, more incremental releases along the way. This improves your planning while negatively impacting your live environment far less than a standard development lifecycle. Shortening the release cycle also allows organizations to adapt and react to evolving customer needs and competitive pressure better, too.
To achieve this, though, requires a change in culture as well as a change in aim. As IBM put so well:
At the organizational level, DevOps requires continuous communication, collaboration and shared responsibility among all software delivery stakeholders – software development and IT operations teams for certain, but also security, compliance, governance, risk and line-of-business teams – to innovate quickly and continually, and to build quality into software from the start. The best way to accomplish [DevOps] is to break down these silos and reorganize them into cross-functional, autonomous DevOps teams that can work on code projects from start to finish – planning to feedback – without making handoffs to, or waiting for approvals from, other teams. When put in the context of agile development, the shared accountability and collaboration are the bedrock of having a shared product focus that has a valuable outcome.
DevOps for everything else
By increasing visibility, accountability, and collaboration between teams, you break down silos not only within the software life cycle, but across your organization in its entirety. Especially for SMBs where engineers or tech staff often wear multiple hats in a lean environment, implementing DevOps throughout the org can radically transform business results beyond just tech concerns.
For SMBs, though, it can often be difficult to conceptualize and implement a full shift to a DevOps mindset on your own — that’s where we come in. It can be hard to figure out where to start, where to focus more of your effort on, what DevOps looks like in your industry with your specific challenges (all while trying to actually run your business)… That’s why partnering with a strategic technology expert can help you conceptualize and realize a shift to the DevOps frame of mind organization-wide.
So if you’re interested in making the leap, drop us a line — we’d love to chat.