How to Build a DevOps Roadmap to Kickstart Your Digital Transformation Journey

Business leaders have never been more aware of the disruptive impact of Digital Technology. Across every industrial sector, organisations are embarking on Digital Transformation programmes aimed at improving internal systems and delivering better products and services to customers.

But no organisation can afford to see a “digital first” programme as a one-off fix or even as a series of annual iterations. Software is transforming commerce not in flurries of activity followed by periods of stability, but in a constant flow of market-driven innovation. As customers (empowered by ever-more sophisticated devices) – demand more, market leading companies are finding new ways to serve them. However, rather than waiting for competitors to play catch up, the same market leaders continue to innovate, week by week and month by month.

This creates a real challenge for businesses accustomed to rolling out new products or upgrading digital services perhaps once a year. In a fast-changing market, a software-driven service conceived today for roll-out six months down the line may be obsolete by the time it is launched.
That’s why the DevOps approach has become so important. By harnessing the concept of agility to a methodology that enables constant software innovation, DevOps allows organisations to respond dynamically to changing market conditions and rising customer expectations.

Why You Need A Roadmap

The adoption of a DevOps approach to Digital Transformation will require not only a willingness to embrace cultural change within the organisation, but also new structures and new ways of working. In particular, the DevOps model involves developers collaborating day-by-day with other stakeholders within the business ; the software team could be working with customer service or order processing staff. In other words, DevOps involves the breakdown of traditional departmental silos.

For many organisations, this will represent a major change in working practices and it is vital that any DevOps-led programme is underpinned by a roadmap.

Making a Start

The creation of a roadmap should begin with an initial assessment.

It is vital that this first meeting should involve all the relevant stakeholder groups within the organisation. DevOps is about collaboration and an important first task is to visualise what that will mean in practice. What teams will be involved and how will they work together?

Underlying this is a more fundamental set of questions – namely:

  • What is the organisation setting out to achieve?
  • Why is it making this organisational change?
  • Why is it adopting DevOps?

These are not questions that can be considered in isolation. The objectives and imperatives driving the company should align with the DevOps model.

Defining Responsibilities

The next stage is to establish and agree on areas of responsibility for those leading the initiative. This is crucial. The DevOps model is often introduced within organisations in a limited way to transform selected functions. This may mean that senior managers and particularly those at C level, are sitting at arms length from the project. This in turn can lead to a certain amount of drift, unless responsibilities are made clear from the outset.

Communications Channels

A typical DevOps programme will involve developers and operational staff working together to deliver software and processes that genuinely create value. Thus, the roadmap should define the channels through which stakeholders will collaborate. This may involve the creation of new structures.

And it may not be as easy as creating communications channels and workflow tools. In large organisations, there are not only ‘corporate’ but also ‘departmental’ cultures. For instance, compliance or security teams may not have a collaborative mindset. The planning stage provides an opportunity to consider who will be most resistant and how to address their concerns to move forward.

Setting Up Fast Feedback Loops

Agility is a key aspect of the DevOps model. By adopting DevOps, organisations are buying into a Digital Transformation method that allows them to collectively think on their feet and change course rapidly if necessary. To make it work, the structures and processes must have built in feedback loops to ensure that business leaders can see what’s going on. If something isn’t working, they need to know.

It it is also advisable to build ‘quick wins’ into the plan. Visible success will drive the momentum of the initiative.

The Bottom Line

Any roadmap should scope out a budget, making clear just how much time and money will be invested, set against the targeted returns. This part of the plan should look at the costing issues from 360 degrees, with the price of inaction also taken into account.

Setting a budget will require a “map and gap” exercise to understand the requirements in terms of skills and manpower and what that will mean in terms of using current employees and/or recruiting new people on a permanent or contract basis. Options to consider include outsourcing, using contractors or doing everything in-house. A hybrid solution is often most effective.

In-house Marketing

The planning stage, by its nature, involves selected people sitting in a room, but Digital Transformation will affect the whole organisation. Successful implementation will require the enthusiasm of key staff, some of whom may be sceptical or feel threatened. To ensure buy in, plan an internal marketing campaign to explain the initiative.

This initial planning paves the way for a successful transformation programme.

In our white paper – DevOps: Unlocking the Value from Digital Transformation – we explore the challenges and solutions to bringing Digital Transformation initiatives to organisations in a range of industries, and how DevOps can be deployed for success.

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