“DevOps requires substantial change” David Rizzo on breaking barriers in DevOps

David Rizzo, VP of Product Development. In his line of work at Compuware, an American software company that works on modern mainframe software solutions for DevOps and agile development, Rizzo works with anything from ML to waterfall to lead this firm into successful digital transformation. Focusing on a more in-depth DevOps way of thinking, Rizzo spoke exclusively to DevOpsOnline the lessons he has learned so far and what he does to overcome the barriers he faces.

Why do you think DevOps is so vital in the modern age?

Businesses are under more pressure than ever to innovate faster, keep up with evolving customer needs and fight off rising competition. Large, mainframe-reliant enterprises feel this burden more than most, as many still use traditional software development approaches that don’t support the changing needs of the business.

DevOps addressed this challenge by breaking down silos between the development and operations teams, enabling them to create and improve software at a faster pace. Adopting a DevOps culture is vital for enterprises to supercharge innovation and digital transformation – both essential to stay competitive in the modern age of business.

For you, what is the best part about working in a DevOps culture?

For me, it all harks back to what life looked like before Compuware’s DevOps transformation. Mainframe developers and non-mainframe developers had very little interaction, causing delays in delivering software enhancements. Now, teams come together to work on enhancements in their entirety, bringing knowledge of how innovations will interact with other platforms. DevOps, continuous integration and continuous delivery means all team members work together, and this culture also spread to the rest of the company.

The agility and togetherness promoted by a DevOps culture is infectious. Compuware now holds bi-weekly town halls to keep everyone aware of team and company successes, with every micro-organisation within the company paying closer attention to what’s going on as a whole. The DevOps culture means everyone now moves faster in their roles to ensure whatever enhancement Compuware puts out is supported effectively, from marketing, to finance, to legal.

What are the biggest barriers companies face when trying to introduce DevOps and what advice do you give to overcome these problems?

 Well, for starters it’s not always easy to gain the support needed from the wider business to treat DevOps as a priority. Decision-makers can be hesitant to disrupt what they consider to be a stable running organisation, and DevOps requires substantial change, especially for large, mainframe-powered organisations. The new tools, processes, and structures needed mean businesses often prioritise the status quo, as it is seen as too big a shift to make. However, tooling is only part of the challenge; the cultural change that must be affected to ensure teams are ready to embrace the ‘new’ is often the biggest hurdle for DevOps, and it isn’t something that can be fixed overnight.

A small yet impactful place to begin for mainframe-reliant enterprises is modernising the development environment and tooling. This includes introducing new tools, replacing outdated green-screens with modern, intuitive IDEs and enabling mainframe and distributed teams to work in similar ways. This lays the foundations for a natural evolution of an organisation’s culture that can bring teams together. After the right tools are in place, the next step is starting small with a single project that brings a cross-functional, agile team to the mainframe. This builds trust and demonstrates that though DevOps requires adjustment, it’s happening for a good reason.

What can businesses do to become smarter about the way they measure DevOps and why is this important?

 Many enterprises struggle to demonstrate the progress they are making in producing higher quality deliverables faster after shifting to DevOps. As the old adage goes, ‘you can’t improve what you don’t measure.’ It’s important for enterprises to track and measure key performance indicators so they can quantifiably know where they’re doing well and where they need to improve.

Measuring mean time to resolution, code coverage and number of defects trapped in test vs. production can help to provide a picture of developer efficiency and quality metrics. Machine learning can also be used so businesses can monitor and analyse behavioural patterns, enabling teams to continuously improve on essential measures. Enterprises that strategically harness their data to tackle development and delivery constraints will also be able to push the needle forward when it comes to digital transformation.

What role does the mainframe play for today’s businesses?

 Though many businesses are adopting cloud or new hardware as part of their digital transformation journey, incorporating the mainframe as well is not only possible, but preferable. The mainframe’s longevity and continually high-functioning nature offers enterprises reliability and security – covetable benefits in an era of endless outages and security breaches.

The mainframe is also rich with data, in most cases gathered over decades. This can provide invaluable insights for businesses, helping them fend off competitors through personalised customer offerings based on information spanning a longer period of time than anything captured by new disruptors. Enterprises with a mainframe are sitting on a goldmine of data and should be taking advantage of this to supercharge customer offerings and experience.

While the temptation might be to move away from the mainframe to newer platforms when pursuing digital transformation, enterprises should instead be looking to innovate on there to retain these vital business benefits.

What key lessons did you learn from your experience of leading the shift to DevOps at Compuware?

Adopting DevOps at Compuware was certainly a challenge, as we previously operated a waterfall approach to software development. We had to commit to the change by transforming the entire business, made up of many highly experienced programmers and a small number of next-gen developers. We recognised that taking a ‘burn the boats approach’ risked alienating development teams and may jeopardise the move to DevOps and so we decided to encourage change to develop organically instead of forcing the process. Rather than send everyone for training, we decided it would be better to just send scrum masters so they could return and become trainers for their own teams, sharing what they’d learned and allowing the wider group to identify how those learnings could best be applied. This approach gave each different team the opportunity to have input and take ownership of the new development methodology.

The shift to DevOps required significant effort across the business, but having reached the other side of the chasm, we can now look back and see how far we’ve come from where we once stood. Compuware now achieves greater quality, velocity, efficiency, and growth every quarter, every year.