The Secret to DevOps Success

Infrastructure and operations leaders can avoid the top 5 reasons for DevOps failures by focusing on the common cause.

Richard, an infrastructure and operations (I&O) leader at a large manufacturing organization, has been tasked by his CIO to develop an DevOps initiative to help the company better scale its software releases and updates. This is the first time that Richard is working on this type of initiative. He is unsure about how to approach it and concerned about being successful.

Gartner predicts that through 2022, 75% of DevOps initiatives will fail to meet expectations due to issues around organizational learning and change.

People-related factors tend to be the greatest challenges — not technology

“In 2019, we are still witnessing I&O leaders embarking on DevOps initiatives and struggling to address organizational change and the value they will provide to the larger enterprise,” says George Spafford, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “Organizational learning and change are key to allowing DevOps to flourish. In other words, people-related factors tend to be the greatest challenges — not technology.”

Spafford identifies the top five reasons for DevOps failures, and how I&O leaders can avoid them.

Read more: 8 Steps to Get DevOps Right

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DevOps not grounded in customer value

Organizations often launch DevOps efforts with insufficient consideration of business outcomes. I&O leaders need to ensure that staff and customers connect with the term “DevOps,” and the value it will bring, prior to introducing the initiative.

Solution: Use marketing to identify, anticipate and deliver the value of DevOps in a manner that makes business sense. “I&O leaders must seek to refine their understanding of customer value on an ongoing business to evolve capabilities and further enable organizational change,” Spafford says.

Organizational change not managed

In the Gartner 2017 Enterprise DevOps Survey, 88% of respondents said team culture was among the top three people-related attributes with the greatest impact on their organization’s ability to scale DevOps.  However, organizations overlook the importance of getting their staff on board with the upcoming change and instead focus efforts on DevOps tools.

Tools are not the solution to a cultural problem

Solution: “Tools are not the solution to a cultural problem,” says Spafford. Identify candidates with the right attitude for adopting DevOps practices. Individuals who demonstrate the core values of teamwork, accountability and lifelong learning will be strong DevOps players.

Lack of collaboration

Successful DevOps efforts require collaboration with all stakeholders. More often than not, DevOps efforts are instead limited to I&O. Organizations cannot improve their time to value through uncoordinated groups or those focusing on I&O exclusively.

Solution: Break down barriers and forge a team-like atmosphere. Varying teams must work together, rather than in uncoordinated silos, to optimize work. “This might start with seeking out an executive who can carry the teams and champion the effort,” Spafford says.

Trying to do too much too quickly

It is important to realize that a big-bang approach — in other words, launching DevOps in a single step — comes with a huge risk of failure. DevOps involves too many variables for this method to be successful in a large IT organization.

Solution: Use an incremental, iterative approach to implement DevOps to enable the organization to focus on continual improvements and ensure that all groups are collaborating. Spafford recommends starting with a politically friendly group to socialize the value of DevOps and reinforce the credibility of the initiative.

Unrealistic expectations of DevOps

Similar to struggling with grounding DevOps initiatives in customer value, a disconnect exists in many organizations between expectations for DevOps and what it can actually deliver.

Expectation management and marketing are continuous and not a one-time affair

Solution: Manage expectations by agreeing on objectives and metrics. Use marketing to identify, anticipate and satisfy customer value in an ongoing manner. Expectation management and marketing are continuous efforts, not a one-time affair.

This article has been updated from the original, published on August 31, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

Gartner clients can read more about overcoming DevOps failure in “Top 5 Causes of DevOps Failure and How to Avoid Them” by George Spafford, et al, and “How to Navigate Your DevOps Journey” by Daniel Betts, et al.

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