The Secret to DevOps Success

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

Through 2023, 90% of DevOps initiatives will fail to fully meet expectations due to the limitations of leadership approaches, not technical reasons. The value in adopting DevOps practices is vast, but if initiatives are to be successful, organizations must approach them in the right way.

People, not process, are the most common cause of DevOps failures

“People, not process, are the most common cause of DevOps failures,George Spafford, research director at Gartner, says. “Many organizations invest in DevOps tools without addressing organizational change and the value they will provide to the larger enterprise.”

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

DevOps not grounded in customer value

Organizations often launch DevOps efforts with insufficient consideration of business outcomes. I&O leaders need to ensure their staffs 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 staffs 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.

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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 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 and not a one-time affair.

Read more: 8 Steps to Get DevOps Right

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.

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