February 20, 2023
How Automation Can Help IT Leaders Alleviate DevOps Challenges
Inserting automation into the DevOps process will help roll out your digital transformations quicker and avoid human error in the process.
In a world that runs on software, digital transformation has become a common practice. Technology is changing faster than ever, and organizations that want to thrive (or simply survive) must deliver software, systems and infrastructure changes at a pace that was unimaginable just a few years ago.
None of this is breaking news, but here’s the challenge: Many organizations are still not built for digital transformation.
Inertia can be difficult to overcome, and many organizations continue to rely on monolithic systems, waterfall development processes and a culture that emphasizes manual work in IT. As a result, they suffer from diminished business value, lower customer and employee satisfaction, higher rates of error and even security vulnerabilities.
The way to address this situation has less to do with implementing a specific set of tools and more to do with changing how people work.
Enable Digital Transformation with DevOps
DevOps, an approach that connects efforts by an organization’s development and operations teams to improve the delivery of applications and systems, has emerged as an essential practice to enable digital transformation.
However, business and IT leaders who want to implement DevOps face some obstacles. They often lack the change management skills and knowledge necessary to spearhead such a massive shift, and they end up playing whack-a-mole with their DevOps initiatives, experiencing false starts and suboptimal results.
Automation is Key to DevOps Success
One of the keys to DevOps success is automation. Organizations that effectively incorporate automation into their digital transformation initiatives ease the burden on their IT teams while improving speed and reliability by reducing the opportunity for human error in application development, deployment, and operational processes.
To achieve these benefits, IT and business leaders must approach automation strategically.
How to Reap the Benefits of Automation
It is important that business and IT leaders implement automation strategically. Rather than taking a scattershot, “ready, fire, aim” approach, leaders should evaluate different use cases against the needs of the business to form an implementation plan.
Otherwise, they may spend time and resources automating things of little value.
It’s easy to focus on low-hanging fruit, but to implement automation strategically, it’s more important to seek out the critical resources that will yield the greatest benefits.
In other words, quick wins are nice to have, but big wins are even more valuable. Companies whose leaders take the time to do this assessment work first will get the most value from their automation efforts.
Automation must be accompanied by quality control. This is often achieved by establishing a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline as part of an organization’s DevOps processes.
But, setting up CI/CD pipelines is just a starting point. Organizations also must automate testing and security scans, which should be built into the CI/CD process. Without effective checks on quality, automation simply becomes a mechanism introducing defects and security vulnerabilities into production.
Transform with a Lean and Agile Culture
The goal is to achieve an environment in which an organization can deliver higher-quality software more quickly in response to customers’ needs. Once DevOps processes are mature, your organization can execute projects at a quicker pace, without the roadblocks and frustrations that often arise in more traditional development environments.
If these changes seem massive, it’s because they are.
The gravity of the changes reflects the digital transformation landscape, which has upended entire industries: Uber and Lyft put countless taxi drivers out of business, and Netflix destroyed Blockbuster.
Such digital disruption can affect any industry. Positioning your organization to respond to change — or become the disruptors yourselves — is what digital transformation is all about.
Digital Transformation in Action
DevOps principles can help organizations of all sizes in any industry overcome technology and cultural challenges to embrace digital transformation. Here are three success stories from different industries:
Independent Software Vendor
This company was having trouble meeting contractually required dates for major and minor releases of its software product.
It had outsourced its development and test environments to the public cloud, but this move significantly increased infrastructure costs.
After a high-level review of the company’s software development and operational processes, the organization migrated their functional and stress-testing environments to a private cloud. The move reduced provisioning from 40 hours per test cycle to 15 minutes and led to a 400 percent faster return on investment due to a shorter lifecycle and reduced infrastructure costs.
Credit Card Processor
This payment processor had partially migrated away from its traditional waterfall development model but had not completed the transformation. To continue successfully, the company needed to assess its overall software development lifecycle, testing processes and environments, service-oriented architecture and data strategy, with a focus on reducing time to market, defects and risks.
As a result of the assessments, the company was able to improve their software development cycle and the relationship between IT and the line-of-business units.
Health Insurance Provider
This company initiated a multiyear plan to dramatically increase the pace and quality of IT application delivery to drive intended business outcomes.
The organization modernized their DevOps tools, processes and culture using Microsoft Azure DevOps and an agile framework.
By working closely with a partner, they were able to:
• Perform a comprehensive DevOps assessment.
• Create an optimized implementation plan.
• Select, implement and configure DevOps tools.
• Train over 300 employees.
• Reorganize and budget based on agile principles.
• Rapidly adopt and facilitate massive culture changes.
As a result, the organization’s new DevOps platform has shrunk deployment time from days to minutes, reduced defects and improved employee productivity.
3 Ways to Enable Digital Transformation
Here are three key concepts to keep in mind when your organization is pursuing digital transformation:
1. Lean/agile culture and workflows: To successfully implement digital transformation and DevOps, an organization must first embrace a lean and agile culture, workflow, organizational design and funding. Simply put, organizations must do everything they can to create agility and decrease their time to market.
2. Loosely coupled architecture and infrastructure: Organizations must modernize their applications and platforms, which typically means using containers. By containerizing, organizations can decouple their applications from their IT infrastructure, leading to improved flexibility and agility.
3. Extensive automation: Much like the key to real estate is “location, location, location,” the secret to DevOps success is “automation, automation, automation.” CI/CD is a cornerstone of DevOps automation, as it allows organizations to deliver software to users in an automated, repeatable fashion with an elevated level of quality checks and controls. In an environment with a robust CI/CD pipeline, any quality issues can be quickly identified and addressed.
The Journey to Automation Begins with Successful Transformation
Technology teams can’t simply drop everything they’re doing and revamp their application test and development environments, no matter how motivated they are or how many resources they’re given. They must keep doing their jobs — mostly the same way they’ve always done them — while new systems and practices are being put in place.
This conundrum is sometimes likened to building an airplane while you’re flying it. We like to say that it’s analogous to teaching yourself karate in the middle of a boxing match, but the idea is the same: Even the most talented IT professionals often need the help of a trusted partner to get digital transformation projects off the ground.
When IT shops are able to overcome the noise of day-to-day tasks, obtain executive sponsorship of DevOps and get help from a partner, they’re well on their way. Even then, digital transformation isn’t an overnight process. But the rewards are well worth the journey.