What is DevOps really?

Joe Brown, Applications Development Lead at SunTrust Bank, delves into how he defines the culture of DevOps.

People often want to know what DevOps is. Where can I buy one? How do I get started? What are the right tools? Which consulting company do I hire to get started?

DevOps: defined by automation or being agile?

DevOps means tearing down the walls between development and operations, or it’s about continuous integration or continuous delivery. People will tell you that it is about automation or being agile. I believe a part of all the answers you’ll likely see contribute to what DevOps is, but the real definition of DevOps, in my mind, is when people, processes and tools work in harmony to provide the highest quality result demanded by the consumer, cost effectively and in time to provide real value.

There is a lot in my definition that can be decomposed, but I think the most important, and the part I want to focus on, is people. It may seem a bit cheesy because any place where people are involved the same argument can be made, but I intend to focus on why people are so important to DevOps.

DevOps is a culture

If you take my definition of DevOps in its entirety, we’re really talking about a cultural movement. While it may be possible for an organisation to mandate the adoption of DevOps practices; and even be successful doing it, the points between DevOps introduction and DevOps acceptance can be protracted. This is largely because, as Daniel H. Pink points out in his book “Drive“, when all things are equal people are motivated by autonomy and creativity. Top down driven DevOps changes often start with huge organisational shifts, role re-definitions or even dissections, overwhelming process changes and the introduction to new tools.  Telling someone what or how change is to occur followed by carrots or sticks to shape the direction doesn’t always achieve the desired result.

DevOps as a grassroots movement stands a far greater chance, as they are typically small, local experiments. Generally, a group of like-minded people will come together and act on an idea. As they gain small victories and start to see additional adjustments that translate into big improvements it becomes beneficial to have leadership support. I believe it is in our nature to want to succeed. When we see teams having small victories we tend to want to leverage their experiment and start our own looking to build on it. Experimentation is at the heart of what DevOps attempts to achieve.

Leaders can create successful cultures

While leadership driven attempts to adopt DevOps can present challenges there are ways, as Simon Sinek points out in his book “Start with Why” that leaders can create cultures conducive to DevOps success. Simon points out that the primary role of good leadership is to start by identifying why an organisation does a thing. Understanding the why provides a feeling that people will rally around and choose to be a part of.

DevOps as a grass roots movement will encounter resistance. This is where “Grit” comes into play. As Angela Duckworth points out in her book, a measure of perseverance and stick-to-it-ness will almost always pay off. You may encounter a short setback or perhaps even all out failures. It is important to understand the value of what you’re doing and not give up.

You may deduce from this that I’m in book sales or publishing, however, that’s not the case. The inspiration of books like “The Pheonix Project” by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford and those mentioned above have formed my idea of what DevOps was intended to be; a cultural shift rallied around a core vision and driven by our tenacious personal desire for autonomy and creativity. To define DevOps successfully for your organisation you have to start by identifying “Why” you want to make the shift. Establish what will “Drive” people to be a part of it and tap into your “Grit” to stay with it and realise the dream. These are all facets of people, not processes or tools. When you’ve achieved this foundation the processes will work themselves out and the right tools will be chosen.

Read the original article on LinkedIn.

Edited for web by Jordan Platt