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This post is from the XebiaLabs blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Jan 19, 2016 — DevOps Expert

Top Organizational Challenges For Implementing DevOps and How To Overcome Them


Last week Gene Kim, renowned author, researcher, speaker and DevOps evangelist, Tapabrata (Topo) Pal, Product Manager for Capital One, and Andrew Phillips, VP of DevOps Strategy at XebiaLabs, met online for a 2015 retrospect about scaling DevOps and Continuous Delivery in the enterprise. During the webinar the trio also covered the top organizational challenges for adoption and offered suggestions on how to overcome them.


Top Organizational Challenges for DevOps Adoption:

Fear of Failure

From an executive point of view, managers often wonder whether the implementation of DevOps practices will be successful. Will they yield positive results that are transparent to both the customer and the organization? At the end of the day, it comes down to the most fundamental question for any business decision: do the pros outweigh the cons? Having a full understanding of the costs and the risks up front is essential. Understanding that DevOps is more than just a technical practice and that it also impacts people and process is a critical first step to getting started.

Legacy Processes

When new employees start at a company, it's fairly common that they will get a job specification that details objectives and expectations along with training manuals and job aides that describe how to go about accomplishing them. For many industries and roles, one specific way of getting from point A to point B may actually be necessary. Take an x-ray technician for example; x-ray machinery is operated in specific, safety-regulated manner. It is important for the technician to understand exactly how the machine should be used within a strict set of guidelines. However, that is not the case for DevOps. "Software is ill defined. It's not like building a bridge,” Andrew Phillips noted during the webinar. When it comes to building and delivering software, there are many ways to go about achieving the same goal. Some ways are more efficient than others. Software and technological processes are constantly evolving, and it is imperative that firms improve their processes in order to gain or maintain a competitive advantage. Topo Pal pointed out that once you start implementing new processes some of the perceived challenges do not materialize. "If you poke around, you will see that a lot of these "legacy processes" and "myths" kind of go away on the side, making the path a little more clear,"  he said. Failing to move toward more automation and faster, more efficient software delivery will allow any competition with more modern practices in place to get to market faster with new features and gain competitive advantage.6014941
"When implementing new processes, if you poke around, you will see that a lot of these legacy processes and myths kind of go away on the side, making the path a little more clear." -Topo Pal  

Bureaucracy: The Walls of Separation Between Teams

A majority of enterprises, especially older more conservative ones, organize workers into different, independent teams with the expectation that these specialized teams will work more efficiently. But today, some of the most innovative companies are discovering that cross-functional teams spanning the usual silos actually increase business efficiencies. Take DevOps for example; the central idea is to breakdown the walls between the development and operations teams so that they can work together to generate a superior result in less time than before. Communication is the key, and in order to get the best end result, it is important to have the best communication across all the teams involved.

How to Overcome These Challenges

Start small, one step at a time

Step 1: Create a tiger team. Or stir new patterns within existing ones.Step 2: Find some form of success that can highlight how value was added using the principles of DevOps.Step 3: Show the added value and proof of success to top level executives and garner their support. This will help to create a reversal within the organization where the executives will begin to push DevOps practices from the top level down. According to Topo Pal, "The way to remove that skepticism is to find a tiger team and make them successful. Or try to create new patterns within a few tiger teams. And then go out in the enterprise and talk about it and demonstrate what you have achieved and encourage other teams to become tiger teams. And that way, you can scale."  

Draw a Connection Between Management’s Goals and Something That Can Be Improved by DevOps

If you haven't already, step back and think about what kind of goals and pressures management is facing. A common executive goal is to increase operational efficiency. This is usually accomplished by shorter task times and lowering costs. If you want to influence senior management and the way your entire organization operates, phrase your proposal in a way that speaks to management's goals and is in line with their objectives.
220px-Gene_Kim"Every goal that a company is trying to achieve, whether it was strategy, operations, integrity of financial reporting or the compliance with laws and regulations, all of those are being jeopardized by the technology organization. Every company needs to be a technology company, regardless of what industry they are in." -Gene Kim
  Getting an entire enterprise to adopt a new system of tools and values, such as DevOps, is no easy feat. But it can be done, and it will bring a newfound level of success to your company if implemented correctly. Remember to start small, take incremental steps and find success in what you do. Think big, follow that success, and you will see your own goals come to fruition.
Other topics from the webinar include: specific examples and personal experiences from 2015, predictions on what DevOps and Continuous Delivery will look like 3-5 years from now, and a question-based discussion. You can listen to the full webinar here.

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