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How to Get Ready for Your First DevOps Initiative

Perhaps you’ve read about how DevOps is helping companies get to market faster, with fewer defects, or how DevOps teams are using automation and quick iterations to adapt to challenges of remote work this year. Maybe you want to reduce the competition for resources and bring your development, testing, and operations teams closer together. No matter what your "ah-ha" moment is, you’ve decided to roll out DevOps in your organization and are looking for tips on getting started. You’ve come to the right place.

Get Leadership Buy-In

Company leaders must be on board with moving to DevOps. Without their sponsorship, your plan may fail before it even has a chance to prove itself. Because DevOps is so dependent on organizational culture and breaking down silos, leaders who embrace the shift and set an example will help the transformation succeed.

Company leaders will establish the company’s vision, which in turn informs the goals of the DevOps project. Identifying these goals at the start of the project avoids wasting effort solving the "wrong" problem. It also helps you choose the right metrics to assess whether your DevOps practice is successful. Learn more about key DevOps metrics here.

Transformational leaders inspire teams to think of solutions in new and creative ways. They also set an example for teams by communicating clearly and rewarding outstanding efforts.

Recognize That Change Is Difficult

People are one leg that supports the three-legged stool that is the foundation of DevOps (People, Processes, and Tools). Change, even positive change, is hard for people to accept because it pushes them out of their comfort zones. Be transparent with them about why the company is embarking on this journey. Trust your employees and encourage open feedback. Listen to their concerns and suggestions.

Offer training to employees who now need to adapt to new roles and responsibilities under DevOps. The combination of change and having to learn new skills can undermine the confidence and morale of your employees unless you provide proper support.

Get Buy-In Across Teams

DevOps transformations touch the work, tools, and working environment of multiple teams. Do not try to plan the transformation without including stakeholders from the business and each team. Their expertise can help you focus your efforts and avoid re-architecting processes that are working smoothly.

Map Out Your Needs

One of the first tasks to plan in your DevOps journey is Value Stream Mapping. This is an opportunity to involve stakeholders from each team to learn about what is working well and what bottlenecks prevent them from being their best. These bottlenecks may be organizational or technical in nature.

Don’t get angry when employees share the obstacles impeding their work - not only is it an opportunity to fix the issue, but it is also a chance to establish trust with your employees. Employees who are afraid of management’s reactions tend to hide problems, which result in bigger issues down the road.

As part of mapping out your needs, take the time to understand your infrastructure and financial constraints. For example, you may not be able to adopt specific cloud-based tools if you have regulatory requirements or technical dependencies that require on-premise hosting.

Go All-In

One mistake we see companies make is buying one or two "DevOps" tools or changing a couple of processes, then getting frustrated when they do not see the results they expected. Our advice is to "go all-in" on the DevOps transformation.

This doesn’t mean that you will try to change every process, tool, and team at once. Instead, it means that you will plan for and invest in your people and as many DevOps principles, practices, and tools as you can without losing sight of your destination.

Use your value stream mapping results to create small cross-functional teams that focus on the quick wins and provide a proof of concept that inspires the rest of the company. Cultivate a positive learning culture in these teams. Give them the tools they need to be successful, like automating repetitive tasks so they can focus on higher value-add work. Once teams see the results, they’ll be less resistant to change.

Monitor Your Success and Adapt

Remember that DevOps is a journey of continuous improvement. Check your progress against your goals, and don’t be afraid to adapt your plan. Even with early wins, it’s important to revisit your processes and tool selections to further reduce waste, improve productivity, and provide your employees with a supportive culture where they succeed.

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