Critical Skills That Can Lead a DevOps Team to New Heights

There is no denying that human beings, in general, resist change. As American author Stephen King once said, “Resistance to change is proportional to how much the future might be altered by any given act.”

And one factor that brings about the most impactful changes in life today, is technology. Every dawning day introduces some form of new technology in the market. And introducing new technology in workplaces bringing forth a new workplace culture, is a challenge to most employers, because people generally resent change in workplace culture.

Even in earlier times, such as in the early 1990s, and today as well, a significant time lag exists between identifying a need for new technology and its actual implementation in the business, which creates enormous frustration.

Out of this frustration was born a concept – the DevOps  Movement (Development and Operations together)– founded by IT expert Patrick Debois in 2009. Debois, known as founder of the movement as well as of DevOpsDays. is an independent IT consultant, whose goal is  bridging the gap between projects and operations. During 15 years as a consultant, he worked in large businesses as developer, network specialist, system administrator, tester and project manager. Having been on both sides of the fence, as developer and as operations professional, he understands where the problems lie.

As it becomes apparent that the whole concept of DevOps is based on different teams collaborating to ensure speedy results, but fail because many individuals are unable to fathom its purpose, professionals with DevOps Foundation, become oriented toward a cultural shift of improved collaboration between the software development and operations teams.

Furthermore, according to MyCustomer.com, a unique site that helps organizations “to deliver better engagement and experiences across the entire customer journey,” 40% of employees of organizations state they feel inadequately supported by their colleagues because “different departments have their own agendas.”

As it happens, in the course of creating innovative new software, developers necessarily juggle around with codes. Experiments conducted during the development cycle identify the best path forward for success, with changes sometimes made in quick succession. Simultaneously, operations teams aim for the highest level of quality in production, focused on customer satisfaction. Therefore, DevOps means improving collaboration, integration and communication in software development and implementation, to create an enhanced product.

As Jez Humble, co-author of the DevOps Handbook, says, “DevOps is not a Goal, but a Never-Ending Process of Continual Improvement.” And, as it happens, one of the most challenging aspects implementing DevOps successfully in a business, is changing its culture. People will not easily change how they work together, or how individual employees perceive their role and their connection to one another to achieve timely delivery of an application, or their collective connection in the organization.

It is only gradually that employees fathom DevOps is not about improving either development or implementation individually , but both simultaneously. Gradually they perceive that DevOps is a means to change the status quo all round, so that IT will not be the bottleneck in creating a better product. They begin to understand that DevOps is a combination of processes, best practices, and techniques to drive IT to raise the bar in delivering high quality business solutions at record speed.

As organizations focus on DevOps, they are able to identify the organizational silos that impede DevOps.

  • Broken Customer Experience – A California-based company CEO, Matthew Harris, said, “The most obvious sign of siloed teams, and what ultimately makes them extremely undesirable, is a broken customer experience.” If a customer is already an existing customer of an eCommerce brand but is treated as a potential customer by the marketing team, it shows how siloed sales and marketing teams are.
  • Internal Unfamiliarity – Jay Goldman, co-founder and Managing Director of Toronto, Canada-based Sensei Lab, said, “The first sign of working at a company with silos is when you don’t know the majority of people working outside your team, or what they do at your company.”
  • Us Vs Them Mentalities – When departments get isolated, they begin to develop an “us vs them” mentality, seeing other departments as competitors and obstacles to success.
  • Disenfranchised Employees – If some employees feel they are treated differently, they will be unhappy and unproductive, and could share negativity with co-workers.
  • Task Duplication – If different departments within an organization do not communicate, they run the risk of duplicating the same task.

Perceiving silo mentality, organizations try to adjust, which is easier for smaller organizations and startups, than for the larger ones that have been around longer.

However, big or small, most organizations are trying to follow strategies that break down silos and promote a collaborative cross-functional production environment.

  • Help everyone understand the common vision and goals

From the inception, individuals and teams need to understand the big picture, how each individual and team contributes to the final output. Engaging as equal links in a chain helps prevent building of separate silos.

  • Assign cross-functional liaisons

Early recognition of organizational silos will result in more streamlined processes by establishing interdepartmental liaisons responsible for encouraging communication between multiple departments working on a project.

  • Encourage cross-functional training

Training employees on skills and tasks that are not their job responsibility, gives them a clearer picture of their colleagues’ job responsibilities. This helps individuals understand what resources or information will help other departments.

  • Develop multi-functional teams for critical launches

A launch team should comprise at least one member from each core department, such as engineering, marketing, sales, and customer service, which will help prevent the silo mentality.

  • Take advantage of the IKEA effect

The IKEA effect means that when individuals and teams expend creative effort at the start of a process, they will have an emotional stake in the project, which will lead to sharing resources to make it successful.

As famous scientist, Charles Darwin, once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

And not just survive, but reach the pinnacle as well.