Five Challenges to Scaling DevOps at Enterprise Level

Deciding that your organisation needs to kick-start its future growth plans with a Digital Transformation initiative is as exciting as it is daunting. No matter what your industry – financial services, insurance, media, retail, travel – disruption is here and more is coming, and you know you must respond.

But there are challenges. Digital Transformation means a wholesale change that will rock the very foundations of your business model. Fear of the new can be crippling – a sense of the risk that may be involved with such a serious undertaking can put up cautionary barriers that hinder your organisation’s path to progress and future survival. Make no bones about it, the need to transform is urgent – especially for established companies still running legacy operations.

At an organisational level, keeping pace with the competition means developing and deploying new digital services; establishing a new operating model for IT that increases the speed at which new and/or altered products are brought to market, and improving operating efficiency.

This means DevOps.

DevOps is an emerging model of product delivery that facilitates higher and faster rates of change through the optimisation of development and delivery processes. It is a working culture that breaks down the traditional siloes between development, operations and all stakeholders in the delivery process that ultimately drives better business outcomes rapidly.

We and many in our industry believe successful Digital Transformation initiatives will need DevOps to be the driving force. DevOps techniques are already being used by 74% of technology professionals working today (at enterprise level, this figure rises to 81%), and IDC believes that 80% of the top 1,000 companies will be embracing DevOps practices by 2019.

DevOps Scaling Challenges

Many large enterprises launch small DevOps initiatives within certain departments, but subsequently find that scaling DevOps across the organisation to enable meaningful and true Digital Transformation faces a number of challenges that must be overcome.

We have detailed the top five challenges that we regularly observe when DevOps is scaled across enterprises below:

  1. Lack of Sponsorship

    In order for DevOps to succeed throughout an organisation, the buy-in is needed from senior leadership. The value of DevOps needs to be demonstrated and shown how it can be applied across the organisation to drive profitable change. Ultimately, without senior endorsement DevOps will not get the support and funding needed to scale.

  2. Inflexible Command and Control Structures

    A fundamental principle of DevOps is to realise rapid progress and improvement. However, such is the hierarchical culture of command and control within many large enterprises, slow and complex approval processes stand in the way of DevOps-driven Digital Transformation from even getting off the ground.

  3. Over-dependence on Static Outsourcing Models

    The pace of technology advances has left many companies struggling to keep up. Knowledge gaps have emerged and project managers have relied too heavily on outsourcing to counterbalance in-house skills shortages. In such circumstances, organisations find themselves simply unequipped to suddenly change direction or try something new, and are therefore unable to respond to new customer demands.

  4. Reinforced Change-resistant Culture

    Success with DevOps will influence change upon nearly every aspect of IT and many other parts of the business. But fear of such change – especially amongst long-serving staff – creates a culture of resistance. However, some staff members will be keen to learn new approaches and technologies, and will want to further their careers. If the organisation cannot provide such opportunities, then they will be attracted to others which can reinforce the change-resistant culture in the company they leave behind.

  5. Fear of “Fail Fast” Principle

    “Fail Fast” is a concept that tends to raise eyebrows amongst those not familiar with the discipline. Failure is of course not a desirable outcome, but certain mistakes or “failures” are bound to creep in when building software – it’s just the nature of the practice, and a fact of life. But the point of “fail fast” is that if certain failures are inevitable, organisations should detect them quickly, fix the problem, and learn from it. Its unfortunate nomenclature that appears to go against the grain, but in fact it is one of the most efficient principles in practice.

How you can Scale DevOps to Enable Digital Transformation

Many of the above challenges are simply perception issues. Changing perceptions, therefore, is key to enacting the changes that are required to enable the DevOps imperative for organisations wishing to survive and compete in the future.

Here we’ve outlined the obstacles – In our whitepaper, DevOps: Unlocking the Value from Digital Transformation, we provide the solutions for tearing them down.

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