DevOps culture, discover the benefits.

Introduction

DevOps culture is essential if you want to transform your production cycle by following DevOps principles. It is the pillar that enables structural changes to be successfully implemented within a company in transition. DevOps requires every employee to make an effort by going beyond their comfort zone to acquire a more global vision. This requires more benevolent collaboration with the other parts of an infrastructure. In this article, we present the essential points to facilitate the emergence of a DevOps culture.

Preparing for change within the company ?

The DevOps culture is the key to enabling an organisation to make the most of all the qualities of its team. Without a stable, well-defined culture, having the best tools and players will not deliver the expected results, or only very briefly. There are a number of prerequisites that need to be discussed within the operational team before any action can be taken with all the players in the company:

The first key point is to design and communicate a direction, an objective to be achieved. This objective may be commercial, quality or productivity. The objective must be arrived at following a thoughtful discussion within the operational team and, if necessary, validated by management, since it will underpin all the actions taken over a long period.

Finally, the last stage consists of defining and developing the KPIs (monitoring metrics) that will enable progress towards the objectives to be assessed. These are essential, as they will justify the actions taken and make it easier to adjust the strategy along the way.

Prepare for the emergence of a DevOps culture within the company.

Having validated the roadmap and the resources needed to monitor the progress of the transition to a DevOps organisation, it’s time to put in place the key principles required for a DevOps strategy.

1 – Open and free communication.

Honest communication is the first element to be validated if you want to claim to have a DevOps culture. Many classic problems in an organisation are linked to a lack of communication or transparency regarding the positions taken. As well as creating tension among members, a lack of transparency reduces working capacity and understanding of the situation. This vagueness will accumulate in every link of the organisation, impacting every member and, in extreme cases, can rapidly reduce the commitment of your employees.

Lack of transparency should not be blamed on any one individual; it is generally a bad habit in the organisation’s culture of which several members are aware, but which requires the work of every member of staff to correct over a period of time before it becomes the norm. This is not an easy task, because the failure of a single member of staff to adhere to the transparency strategy, whatever his or her position, can jeopardise the culture of transparency in the long term. It is therefore a serious matter that can only be tackled after a cordial exchange of views on the current situation and the development of a strategy to be followed and validated in retrospect.

The lack of transparency is also the cause in IT of tension between the management team and the technical team. In fact, in the IT industry, as in all highly technical industries, it is not possible to understand all the problems of the business without being directly technical. Consequently, a lack of communication is the best way to increase tensions between the executive and management teams.

Conversely, if the technical team does not make an effort to explain its problems and the solutions they provide, the decision-making process will have no positive impact on the production cycle. To develop a DevOps culture, you need to think through the subject and align yourself with the issues at stake, as well as setting out the difficulties at the outset. Next, you need to explain the reasons for the actions taken, using common terms. In this way, the vision remains clear and accessible to everyone. Finally, defining an action plan helps to validate feasibility, understanding of the strategy and individual responsibilities.

Solutions to improve team communication.

Involve the operational team in drawing up the sprints, to give everyone a chance to share their fears or questions about what is expected. Implementing this practice may seem difficult, particularly as each party will not necessarily have the skills to explain and share its expertise in a qualitative way. What’s more, it will take time for new ideas to be accepted, which may initially make for difficult meetings, but the rigour of which will gradually produce results.

Looking after the development teams during sprints. There are two main reasons for this: on the one hand, to monitor progress and detect any risks. Secondly, to keep up to date and have an internal view of progress before making commitments and decisions. What’s more, exchanging ideas during the course of a project is the best way of highlighting a need that may disappear over time before reappearing in a future sprint.

In addition, it is vital to ensure that the development team works together outside its field of expertise in order to explain the issues outside the technical conditions and to demonstrate more effectively the constraints and solutions put in place. Without this transparency, there is a risk that each group’s interpretation will fuel tensions.

In other words, the first element to put in place is a solid collaboration between the poles. To do this, many tools can be put in place, provided that their use is committed by each member on a regular basis.

2 – validate the direction as you go.

The Devops culture is oriented towards continuity and long-term application, it is only in this context that the results will be able to grow. Consistency is needed in each sector of the company according to the role of each. To do this, it is imperative to highlight the culture of feedback.

Before making a follow-up request, it is important to let the teams try several approaches to aim for the results specified by the operational team. Approaches can be conducted with PDCA to facilitate analysis of their performance. Aiming for a PDCA approach, expect non-linear improvement through trial and error. Afterwards, the control meetings are used to redesign the models to achieve the performance necessary for each silo as quickly as possible, in view of the common objective.

The main objective of these meetings must be to offer constructive feedback by taking the time to validate the expectations and how it is possible to achieve them. A good contribution during these exchanges must be both positive while always bringing ideas to go further in a clear and precise way. Without this, feedback will be irrelevant, difficult to achieve and a feeling of non-legitimacy can be felt by some employees.

Provide tools for feedback.

The final objective here is to find a happy medium between imposing solutions to be standardized and leaving room for everyone’s appreciation to provide this feedback. If no tools are made available, engagement in constructive feedback may suffer. Conversely, if a single method is considered, some members of the team will not play the game. The ideal being to offer several tools allowing feedback in groups, individually and anonymously to ensure that they can have any type of return within the structure.

Of course, we must also ensure that everyone has access to the tools and understands their role and use. But also, that some of the feedback be followed by changes to show the value of feedback in the overall strategy.

The interest of retrospectives to understand the issues.

Retrospectives are an effective way to revisit past actions in order to extract the pluses and minuses. To be effective, retrospectives must follow a clear frequency and maintain a rigor accepted by members. This is why it is necessary to communicate in this way and to remind the importance of the time allocated to this task to improve the results and the well-being of each employee.

A quality retrospective is noticed by the collaboration of each of the members. To do this, it is necessary to put in place actions to recover the real opinion of each member (anonymization, commitment to the positive, etc.). It is also necessary to prepare the members for the exercise by specifying the role of the retrospective meeting at each new session.

In addition, start retrospectives on successes in order to show the good faith of managers and to avoid confronting the team on failures. The objective is to move forward together without schism between the actors. Then, list the negative or blocking points, insisting on having everyone’s feelings and motivating the partners to come up with ideas. Finally, the meeting must end with a commitment on the actions to be carried out. To do this, the instigator of the meeting must begin to present their own commitments to show that the efforts are shared. Then, the commitments must be made public, to encourage the actions taken following the feedback and constantly raise the importance of providing feedback on this subject.

In critical cases that suggest several action levers to be put in place, do not hesitate to prioritize some according to factual criteria (business plan, cost allocation, etc.) but also some whose choice is up to the team in the form of vote. Thus, despite the difficulties, employee retention can be reduced by retaining and taking into consideration the recommendations.

3 – Transmit knowledge.

After analyzing the results obtained using the processes, mechanisms must be put in place to allow the transmission and maintenance of the improving practices over time. To do this, it is necessary to pay attention to the network put in place by proposing an increase in decentralized skills and to avoid bottlenecks of expertise in certain sectors under penalty of suffering turnover and hazards.

One of the most effective approach and community builder. This practice consists of creating creative events with fictitious objectives in which participants are encouraged to use the processes offered in a playful but real context with all the teams.

If the company is required to use very specific technical aspects, the approach can be coupled with the creation of centers of excellence: this method makes it possible to create localized silos of expertise around specific subjects. However, this requires preparing upstream the transfer of knowledge in the case of the exit of experts. It is therefore necessary to use the centers of excellence in the really necessary cases and with parsimony.

A culture of continuous learning.

To validate the continuity of learning throughout the life of the company, it is necessary to put in place a culture of continuous learning to validate the new skills necessary. This approach can have both positive and negative feedback depending on the individual. This is why it is recommended to explain the process to all the teams. All employees should feel comfortable offering and receiving feedback. Otherwise, this could cause tensions and undermine inter-sector collaboration.

This section concludes this article on establishing the main pillars of the DevOps culture. This list is not exhaustive, but reflects the main actions to be taken to ensure the transition to a more DevOps corporate culture. In a future article, we will come back to the various dangers present during a DevOps transition and how to avoid them.

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Maxime Macé

Simple passionné de thématiques diverses et variées. J’apprécie enrichir mes connaissances dans les disciplines techniques comme l’informatique, les sciences et l’ingénierie, mais aussi dans les domaines merveilleux de la philosophie, l’art et la littérature.

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