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July 28, 2023 - 8 minutes

Building a DevOps Culture: Collaboration and Communication for Success

How do you implement the DevOps methodology in your organization? 

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DevOps & Cloud

Today, DevOps has been widely embraced as a way to optimize software development. The DevOps commitment to promoting collaboration, optimizing workflow, enhancing product quality, and improving services or user experiences is what’s led it to transform the culture surrounding software development. But integrating a DevOps culture into your workplace is no simple task; it requires a high level of trust among employees, encourages experimentation, and is reliant upon constant improvement. 

Globally, businesses are investing in their DevOps capacity in order to secure a competitive edge in their respective fields, but successfully implementing a DevOps culture in your organization may cause a significant shift in relation to current workplace dynamics. Understanding the various DevOps cultures will help your business train those skills in order to successfully transform your workplace and reap the benefits of an organizational model that’s proving to revolutionize the tech industry. 

What is DevOps? 

DevOps is an approach to software development reliant upon collaboration between developers (Dev) and operations teams (Ops). The goal is to increase efficiency in the software delivery process through effective communication, integration of processes, and the use of automation. Patrick Debois first coined the term in 2009 and the method has since been widely embraced and developed by tech professionals. 

In order to successfully integrate DevOps into a workplace, a cultural shift is often necessary, given how it differs from many other approaches to software development. Instead of isolating the work of developers, operations personnel, and other stakeholders, those parties must be in regular collaboration and communication in order to streamline and improve the software development process. 

What is DevOps Culture? 

DevOps culture requires close collaboration and shared responsibility among developers, operations personnel, and others involved in the software development process. Key aspects of DevOps culture include: 

  • Collaboration: this is the key characteristic of a DevOps culture. The goal of DevOps is to break down any barriers between teams and encourage cross-functional collaboration. Participants include developers and operations personnel, but also quality assurance teams, cybersecurity professionals, and additional stakeholders. 

  • Communication: the DevOps method promotes and requires effective communication. Participants work together as a unified team, share information, ideas, and offer feedback in non-punitive ways. The goal is to align organizational operations, effectively navigate conflict, and make informed decisions. 

  • Trust and growth: DevOps requires trust and a commitment to growth from participants in order to be effective. It values individual experience, encourages experimentation and risk taking, promotes open dialogue, and requires a culture of accountability where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for collective growth. 

  • Ongoing improvement: DevOps fosters a culture of continuous learning and advancement in which employees are encouraged to seek feedback, review their performance metrics, and identify areas for improvement. This method promotes the development of a culture where individuals play an active role in advancing their own skill sets and where teams work together, make each other stronger, and pursue excellence collectively. 

  • Utilizing tools and automation: the method does not shy away from automation and other tools and techniques that make processes more efficient and reliable. DevOps encourages automating repetitive tasks and utilizes tools like configuration management, continuous integration, and deployment pipelines are utilized to strengthen the software delivery process. 

  • Shared responsibility: ultimately the DevOps culture is reliant upon developing a sense of shared ownership and responsibility over the software development lifecycle. Developers must understand the operational implications of their code, and operations personnel must collaborate with developers in order to give feedback throughout the process. 

In the end, integrating DevOps into an organization is less about training workers on new tools and more about cultivating a DevOps culture and mindset. These are just a few of the DevOps culture principles that support organizations in creating a collaborative working environment. The culture should encourage teams to work towards common goals, support customers quickly and efficiently, and demand continuous improvement in the software delivery process. 

Benefits of DevOps Culture: 

The DevOps methodology has been widely accepted because of how it’s proven to streamline high-quality software releases, improve organizational performance, and increase employee satisfaction. The DevOps culture of collaboration, shared responsibility, continual improvement, and trust, is said to improve business outcomes while enhancing employee experience. Here are a few other key ways that building a DevOps culture has shown to increase company performance and improve employee experience: 

  • Faster time to market: through emphasizing automation and encouraging collaboration, DevOps streamlines processes and accelerates the software development process. This results in faster time to market for products, updates, and new features. 

  • Continuous delivery and deployment: the DevOps method allows organizations to adopt continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices. Through reducing the time between development and deployment, software updates can be delivered to customers quickly and more frequently. Similarly, the culture allows for greater agility in the face of market demands and customer feedback, giving DevOps-based organizations a competitive advantage in adapting to consumer needs. 

  • Improved efficiency and productivity: through the use of automation, companies are less vulnerable to human errors, increase the overall efficiency within DevOps processes, and free up valuable time for their employees to work on less repetitive and more beneficial activities. 

  • Increased reliability: DevOps culture promotes practices such as infrastructure as code, automated testing, and continued monitoring. Through integrating these practices, organizations ensure early detection of issues and proactive problem resolution. This leads to improved stability and reliability of software systems, higher customer satisfaction, and improved system resilience. 

  • Shared understanding: the DevOps culture aligns development and operations teams with business goals through establishing a shared understanding of and commitment to business objectives among employees. 

All in all, it's been shown that the establishment of a DevOps culture can give organizations a competitive advantage in their field precisely because their organizational culture has a shared understanding of the business objectives and a shared responsibility towards product development and customer satisfaction

DevOps Culture Challenges: 

In understanding the benefits of the DevOps method, integrating a DevOps culture into one’s organization seems like a no brainer. That said, companies will certainly face challenges along the way. Gartner predicts that 75% of companies that attempt to make the transition to a DevOp culture “fail to meet expectations due to issues around organizational learning and change.” Those failures can be attributed to a number of factors, most of which are related to interpersonal factors as opposed to technology. 

Knowing that, developing a DevOps culture must be an intentional project and organizations must be prepared for the potential challenges that may arise. A few known challenges that your organization should keep in mind include: 

Opposition to change

Changing an organization’s culture is bound to be met with resistance. Whether there be complaints from individuals and teams who are accustomed to traditional roles and processes, or frustrations with the transition phase where operations may feel less efficient than ever, there’s no doubt that individuals will momentarily be hesitant. Overcoming this resistance may be slow, but ultimately the DevOps method has shown to increase employee satisfaction and optimize operations. 

History of conflict

Companies that have a history of conflict between individuals or teams may find it harder to implement a methodology built upon collaboration, trust, and respect. The key here is to be patient with teams and slowly work on addressing that conflict and repairing the relationships such that there is unilateral buy-in. 

Gap in skills or knowledge

Developing a DevOps culture requires specific soft skills and interpersonal skills in order to create a culture based on trust, accountability, and respect. Few people enter the workforce armed with those skills and even fewer will have worked at workplaces that promote collaboration, continuous improvement, and shared responsibility. That said, it will take time to truly get employees in line with DevOps principles. 

Measuring success

Given that DevOps blurs the roles of teams in exchange for collaboration, organizations may have to go beyond traditional performance indicators and find alternative ways to measure their successes. This can sometimes be a challenge for businesses, but also an opportunity to reimagine organizational objectives. 

Cultural divide between devops and security teams

Many organizations encounter the divide between the teams when it comes to the tension between speed and security. This may be attributed to differences in priorities, methodologies, or historical practices by each team. Of course this does not have to result in negative outcomes, it’s simply finding the best way to transform the organization’s culture such that security teams feel respected and form part of the collaborative processes that DevOps encourages. Bridging the cultural divides between DevOps and security teams is necessary in creating a more secure and efficient software delivery process. 

In all, implementing and fostering a DevOps culture will not happen overnight. Challenges are to be expected and should not discourage a company’s push to transform its culture. Addressing these challenges may require cultural transformation initiatives, training and upskilling programs, and leadership support. The greatest challenge will be being patient and understanding with employees as the organization makes the shift. 

How to Build a Strong DevOps Culture 

Developing a comprehensive DevOps Culture requires an intentional and systematic approach to shifting your current organizational culture and ensuring a commitment and understanding to the method by employees. It’s crucial to develop a deep understanding of why and how the methodology is useful such that there is buy-in by the part of employees to help construct it. Key steps to implementing a strong DevOps culture include: 

  1. Defining DevOps for your organization: identifying the specific outcomes you aim to achieve is helpful in creating a shared vision and common understanding of the purpose behind the cultural shift. 

  2. Identifying your transition team: getting people on board with the method is the first step in a successful DevOps initiative. Identify individuals who model the behavior desired in establishing a DevOps culture, communicate the vision to them, and have them help lead the cultural shift.  

  3. Establishing open channels of communication: companies may need to create ways to facilitate ongoing and open communication across teams. This could look like hosting regular meetings, organizing joining planning sessions, or utilizing applications that facilitate collaboration. 

  4. Identifying performance metrics and objectives: knowing that individual involvement in DevOps is one of the most important aspects to building a strong collaborative culture, establishing objectives that motivate employees, encourage teamwork, and work towards shared goals is crucial. Make sure performance metrics do not reinforce a siloed structure nor pit individuals against their teams. 

  5. Being patient and starting small: too many companies make the mistake of trying to implement massive changes overnight, but a cultural shift takes time. It may make sense to only implement the DevOps method in a few teams who are already modeling DevOps values, and use those as examples to lead other teams.

Introducing a new culture to your company may be met with challenges that you may not have predicted, that said, being patient, persistent, and respectful to employees can make all the difference in transforming your organization. The DevOps method has been widely embraced precisely because it’s proven to positively transform organizations and increase employee satisfaction. It may take time to properly implement, but will ideally lead to the creation of a work environment where employees can thrive, collaborate, and deliver more than ever to the organization. 

If you’re interested in learning more about DevOps, consult the Ironhack blog

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