Creating a Successful DevOps Team

DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes.

No matter how you’re using DevOps practices — whether your company has a DevOps department or cross-functional teams that share DevOps tools and practices — there are distinct characteristics of DevOps teams that align with high IT performance. Here are the distinct characteristics of a successful DevOps team:

1. Culture

A DevOps culture is characterized by collaboration across roles, focus on business instead of departmental objectives, trust, and value placed on learning through experimentation. Building a culture isn’t like adopting a process or a tool. It requires the social engineering of a squad of people, each with unique predispositions, experiences, and biases. This diversity can make culture-building challenging.

Building a DevOps culture requires the leaders of the organization to work with their squads to create an environment and culture of collaboration and sharing. Leaders must remove any self-imposed barriers to cooperation. Typically, operations professionals are rewarded for uptime and stability, and developers are rewarded for delivering new features. As a result, those groups are set against each other. For example, operations professionals know that the best protection for production is to accept no changes, and developers are encouraged to provide new functions quickly, sometimes at the expense of quality. In a DevOps culture, squads have a shared responsibility to deliver new capabilities quickly and safely.

2. Collaboration

Collaboration is the key cultural aspect of DevOps, which brings together Development and Operations teams. Real-time feedback and communication allow teams to make rapid changes to an application while keeping a stable and robust environment. Effective DevOps teams don’t think of issues as “someone else’s problem.” Developers, IT operations, quality assurance engineers, database admins, and business analysts collaborate, and everyone checks code into the version control system. Everyone is part of the delivery process — and held accountable for it.

3. Shared Accountability

One of the key tenets of DevOps is the idea that both teams have an equal share of accountability. This road is not an easy path. Every team member is collectively as well as individually accountable at each step throughout the building, deployment, and testing phases. Various surveys show that the larger the company, the more likely they’ve adopted the DevOps workflow. Small companies are considering adopting, but have not implemented it yet. Although more and more companies are making the transition to DevOps, they are finding accountability a struggle to understand and implement.

4. Automation

Automation is the ultimate need for DevOps practice and ‘Automate everything’ is the key principle of DevOps. In DevOps, automation kicks starts from the code generation on the developers machine till it reaches the production environment. In short, the DevOps team automates building, deployment and testing phases. With automation, the chance of human error gets significantly reduced as we transition code from one phase to the next. As configuration of all environments are automated, the teams minimize issues caused by writing code in a development environment that is different from the production environment. In a full-scale DevOps model the automation touches every aspect of the process that includes developing the code, testing the code, deploying the test infrastructure, running end-to-end tests, deploying the code, collecting metrics from production, and the end-to-end orchestration of the DevOps pipeline

5. DevOps Meetings, Reporting & Reviews

Regular meetings are the backbone of the DevOps communication. Same as with the Agile Project Management structure, the DevOps team meets at least twice a week. In most cases, the meetings occur on a daily basis. Developers and IT operations attend planning meetings, standups, and release postmortems. Developers share responsibility for writing testable and deployable code, and if code fails in production, the team is kept in the loop, working together to review causes and identify solutions.

DevOps team members can accurately report how long it’ll take to deploy a new feature, or even a few lines of code, to production. They can identify and remove roadblocks, without a lot of red tape. They understand the key performance and availability metrics to measure, and track them against larger business goals.

6. Continuous delivery

Continuous Delivery is a Process of delivering the software/Updates to production in smaller increments, ensuring that the software can be released at any time. Continuous delivery, implemented right, allows release changes continually to production. That lets the DevOps team test new features with real customers, facilitating quick feedback about how they’re being used. Continuous delivery helps companies make better business decisions and move more quickly than their competitors.

The primary goal of continuous delivery is to make software deployments painless, low-risk events that can be performed at any time, on demand. With continuous delivery, it is relatively straightforward to achieve zero-downtime deployments that are undetectable to users.

Sometimes the terms continuous delivery and continuous integration are used interchangeably. However, it should be noted that CI is the process of integrating code into a mainline code base. Whereas, CD is about the processes that have to happen after code is integrated for app changes to be delivered to users. Those processes involve testing, staging and deploying code. It would be appropriate to introduce the frequently used term, continuous testing, as well. Continuous testing is actually a part of the continuous delivery process. Continuous Testing is defined as a software testing type that involves a process of testing early, testing often, testing everywhere. It is a strategy of evaluating quality at every step of the Continuous Delivery Process. The goal of Continuous Testing is to test early and test often. And lastly, we need to also understand what Continuous delivery pipeline or CD Pipeline is. A CD pipeline is a set of steps your code changes will go through to make their way to production. A CD pipeline delivers, as per business needs, quality products frequently and predictably from test to staging to production in an automated fashion.

7. Version control systems

Version control is a system that records changes to a file or set of files over time so that you can recall specific versions later. Version control systems help the DevOps team track changes and quickly find the source of an error, reducing time to recovery. Everything required to launch a change into the production environment must be checked into version control, including application code, application and system configurations, tests, and deployment scripts. Version control is important to keep track of changes — and keep every team member working off the latest version. You should use version control software for all code, files, and assets that multiple team members will collaborate on. With the version control system, one can determine when, why, and by whom a file was edited.

A good DevOps team delivers on their promises to the business, and to their customers. They continually work on developing collaboration, clear communication and trust between team members. They are continually learning and improving as a team. Most important of all: they spend less time fighting fires and more time focusing on great work.

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