There are different opinions about what constitutes DevOps, but the most common description includes the greater collaboration between software developers and IT operations staff to better integrate their activities and deliver business value faster. More is being written about DevOps, and yet less is understood about why certification is required. HR and L&D professionals have an excellent opportunity to help ensure that there is a closer alignment of training, software development and business operations.
Industry analyst Gartner studied more than 50 projects that are on the public record as having experienced complete failure, were seriously compromised or overran their IT budgets significantly. The analysis showed that an organisation’s refusal to address complexity in the business process is the main reason for failure1 and that ‘successful projects are characterised by less bureaucracy in governance arrangements and greater focus on outcomes’. The DevOps approach aims to create a culture that breaks down barriers and bureaucracy and brings together developers and operational staff for the best outcomes.
This is increasingly vital in a world where even established enterprises face real competition from young, nimble start-up competitors. Agile software development methods are becoming pervasive, leading to an acceleration of product and service roll-outs across all sectors. IT can no longer operate in a silo especially as more organisations are migrating to the cloud with global 24/7 access to systems and data. Consumer expectations are for ever easier and faster access to services and the latest products and they are increasingly likely to research the marketplace to get what they want.
If you think DevOps is not relevant to your business because IT is not your core business, think again. Every business is now a technology business. IT must adapt its culture, practices and automation to meet all these changing conditions.
What is DevOps?
Interest in DevOps has grown exponentially in the past couple of years, although it can mean different things to different people. The term is often bandied about with some seeing it as more cultural and some seeing it as more technical. Enterprise IT faces the challenge of making sense of all the varying perspectives of DevOps DevOps is developing organically with contributions from various stakeholders that acknowledge the interdependence of IT functions. One of the goals of organizations such as the DevOps Institute is to collect, share and make sense of emerging DevOps practices through training and certification.
Only last year Gartner predicted2 that 25% of global 2000 organisations will adopt a DevOps strategy by 2016. Gartner defines DevOps as ‘a philosophy, a cultural shift that merges operations with development and demands a linked toolchain of technologies to facilitate collaborative change’.
Gartner points out that the DevOps trend goes beyond implementation and technology management and instead necessitates a deeper focus on how to effect positive organisational change, centring on people, process, technology and information. In Gartner’s view, although people are at the core of the DevOps philosophy, they are only a part of the wider equation; continual improvement of the right processes and accurate information at the right time are also necessary to optimise value. “With respect to culture, DevOps seeks to change the dynamics in which operations and development teams interact,” says Laurie Wurster, research director at Gartner, adding, “The goal is to enable each organisation to see the perspective of the other and to modify behaviour accordingly, while motivating autonomy.”
Many HR and L&D departments have already invested in organisational change management training, Agile training for developers and ITIL training for operational staff. Unfortunately, these have failed to deliver business value because they have been restricted to their silos. DevOps connects the dots between many frameworks and unlocks greater value, resulting in less waste, fewer defects and reduced costs.
DevOps does not have a single definitive body of knowledge such as the ITIL Library. It is a set of emerging practices with emphasis on constructive collaboration and agreement rather than prescriptive practices. DevOps does integrate guidance from existing IT frameworks but certainly does not replace them.
As a result HR and L&D professionals can get in on the ground floor and define what an effective DevOps approach should look like for their organisation. Doing away with the ‘them and us’ approach of siloed Devs and Ops will bring benefits arising from transforming cultures that foster blame and fear of failure to collaborative, consensual ways of working.
Both individuals and organisations embracing DevOps will see benefits arising from increased agility and stability that allows organisations to respond to urgent business needs and change quickly while maintaining stability, reliability and security. Research has revealed3 that organisations that implemented DevOps practices were up to five times more likely to be high performing as a result of more reliable services. The research found that code is shipped 30 times faster, deployments are completed 8,000 times faster, there are 50% fewer failures and service is restored 12 times faster.
Statistics like these enable HR and L&D to show a concrete and compelling return on DevOps investment. Aligned with training initiatives, HR and hiring managers will increasingly be looking to recruit individuals with evidence of a DevOps understanding and a knowledge of the common terminology associated with DevOps and people who have certified skills will be in demand.
Better IT alignment and business responsiveness enables faster, smaller, more frequent releases and leads to improvements in time to market, quality of code, products and services. Customer satisfaction increases as does employee satisfaction leading to enhanced engagement and better retention rates. HR is tasked with hiring and retaining top tier talent – and a DevOps environment where work is appreciated and supported is attractive to employees.
First steps to DevOps
Culture change is a big part of DevOps, increasing communication and collaboration between business units and between people. The goal is not just agile software development but rather end-to-end organisational agility. HR & L&D professionals have a part to play in promoting an executive awareness and overview of the proposed DevOps approach so that stakeholders at management and board level have a common understanding. While there may be concern that there is not a single authoritative body of knowledge, there are several publications that contribute to a collective and complementary body of knowledge.
Organisations seeking to embed a DevOps culture should start by encouraging a common vocabulary and shared understanding of DevOps principles. A training and development programme for developers, operational staff and business stakeholders can facilitate dialogue, increased knowledge and a unified approach to applying DevOps internally. HR and L&D should take the lead in keeping abreast of developments that enable staff to continually improve DevOps skills and achieving advanced certification for better return on investment and talent retention.
DevOps Foundation certification training is the starting point for most organisations. The course structures basic DevOps practices and principles into training that makes enterprise sense. The content is relevant to business and IT stakeholders alike. Since DevOps strives to break down silos, what better way to start improving communication and collaboration than through a shared learning experience? Training can be the beginning of breaking down barriers and building trust. Line managers and others that may feel threatened by this new collaborative world may reduce their concerns if they are engaged from the start.
The learning objectives for the 16-hour DevOps Foundation course include an[JG1] [JG2] understanding of DevOps goals, objectives, business value, vocabulary, metrics, related practices, relationship to other IT frameworks, cultural considerations and automation for the delivery pipeline.
Additional and advanced DevOps training and certification is in the pipeline including topics such as Continuous Delivery, Automation, Rugged DevOps and others. To support organizational agility, a Certified Agile Service Manager (CASM) certification is also available as the operational counterpart to the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) qualification. Working together, ScrumMasters and Agile Service Managers can instil Agile thinking into the entire IT organisation. CASM teaches organizations how to first “be agile” and then how to design modern agile service management processes that can be used to underpin DevOps. Agile Service Management is similarly supported by the Certified Agile Process Owner (CAPO) training and certification as a counterpart to development’s Certified Agile Product Owner role.
Bridging the gap
Gartner identifies the desire to tap into the scalability of the cloud as a major driver for the DevOps approach in many businesses. While organisations heavily entrenched in Agile or waterfall development may find DevOps a challenge at first, DevOps’ emphasis on learning and experimentation will help equip their teams with new ways of working for better business value.
DevOps is a cultural and professional movement that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and IT operations professionals. It is about getting people to say the same thing and mean the same thing. HR & L&D professionals who are successful in fostering a DevOps learning environment will reap the benefits of an engaged and flexible workforce with high productivity and staff retention rates.
Who is doing DevOps?
Businesses from Macy’s to Microsoft have thrown their weight behind DevOps to meet their individual challenges. Here some examples of DevOps in action:
Netflix has used a DevOps approach4 to underpin its focus on quality and automation. Netflix engineers were looking for a way to handle occasional failures in the delivery of their streaming service and decided to automate failure. It developed a tool called Chaos Monkey, the first in a series of tools known as the Netflix Simian Army. Chaos Monkey runs in all Netflix environments all the time, shutting down servers randomly. That way, Netflix developers work an environment of unreliable services and unexpected outages and are incentivised to make their own life easier by developing robust services that work well despite that.
Netflix is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and now handles occasional downtime by automating that as part of the process. So if AWS is not delivering a video stream, the Netflix service will simply not run that element and the rest of the service will continue working well for end users.
Target, the US retailer that suffered a hack exposing the data of 40 million of its cardholders, adopted the DevOps approach to get to grips with its highly complex and widely outsourced IT environment. In March 2015 it announced it intended to spend $1 billion on technology such as DevOps in 20155. The goal was to rebuild and develop the internal engineering culture. Target set up Dojo as an internal incubator to drive adoption of the DevOps approach. The retailer now has full control over its technology delivery and management and is continuing to break down technology silos.
Online marketplace Etsy came to a gradual realisation of the benefits of DevOps to enable it to deploy software more quickly to keep up with its accelerating business growth6. It needed to break down the traditional model of software developers developing the code and IT operations deploying it, in order to make deployments faster while maintaining stability and reliability. Now that developers deploy code direct onto the website and Etsy has introduced the mechanism of a designated ops person responsible for cross-team collaboration and communication it has increased its deployments from twice a week to over 60 times a day.
About the Authors
Panagiotis Fiampolis is Research & Development Director of PEOPLECERT. PEOPLECERT partners with multi-national organisations and government bodies for the development & management of globally recognised certification schemes and the delivery of their related standardized exams in over 156 countries. For more information http://www.peoplecert.org
Jayne Groll is one of the co-founders of the DevOps Institute. The DevOps Institute is working with DevOps thought leaders and a global network of education partners to bring high quality and relevant training and certification on emerging DevOps practices to the enterprise IT market. For more information http://devopsinstitute.com
This article was originally published in Training Journal, April 2016. For more information visit:
3 2013 State of DevOps Report – Puppet Labs and IT Revolution Press