The 6 Biggest Challenges Facing DevOps - InformationWeek
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Larry Alton, business consultant
Larry Alton, business consultant

The 6 Biggest Challenges Facing DevOps

About decade after it debuted the DevOps concept has evolved and built up a base of advocates, but it still presents challenges.

Like any process or strategic approach, the field of DevOps is constantly changing. First emerging as a collective term nearly a decade ago, the DevOps field now embraces millions of software developers and entrepreneurs who have adjusted their teams and core philosophies to fall in line with the DevOps vision. However, these guiding principles are still evolving, and if you want to remain relevant and agile in 2018, you’ll need to evolve with them.

Why DevOps is still thriving

There are critics who have argued that DevOps is a fad, or is more of a buzzword-driven rebranding campaign than a truly significant change in the industry, but there’s significant evidence to the contrary. The rise and continued success of SaaS platforms, increasing customer demands, and even the new perspectives of young developers are all pushing for DevOps to remain strongly relevant in business. The biggest transformation has been in how the term is used; rather than referring to specific roles, like “DevOps developers,” DevOps refers to a work culture that all individuals within it follow.

These are some of the biggest challenges DevOps will face in 2018:

Formalizing your definition of “DevOps.” For the past few years, DevOps has been an informally described way of doing things, combining the roles of development and operations in some way. When first introduced to a company, it serves as a useful thought experiment more than a specific set of guidelines for how to work moving forward. Now, with DevOps more formalized, businesses need to define exactly what DevOps means in the context of their own teams, and ensure that all members of their team understand and agree with that definition.

Choosing the right projects. The DevOps approach is efficient and time-saving, but it isn’t right for every project. Development teams and companies will need to work harder in 2018 to choose which projects are the best fits and highest priorities for their business, especially if they’re also working on projects where DevOps isn’t as effective an approach. Utilizing project portfolio management software can help you concretely understand the working variables of each project, and allocate the right resources to get them done as efficiently as possible.

Testing products thoroughly. You may be able to build and release your products faster, but are you sure they’re bug-free? QA testing is one of the biggest limiting factors for DevOps’s cost-efficiency, so it’s going to be one of your biggest hurdles this year. Thankfully, there are more automated QA testing tools than ever before, which can help you get the work done faster, but you’ll also need to make sure you have the right human resources on your team to oversee things.

Reducing legacy systems. Legacy apps are always difficult to maintain, especially when you’re trying to focus on new apps and systems, but when you’re trying to transition to a stronger focus on DevOps, that challenge is escalated even further. You’ll need to work with your team to find new ways to manage legacy apps, or preferably, work on phasing them out altogether. You can start with a gradual phase-out, transitioning customers to a newer version of the older app (or transitioning employees to new systems), or segment your team so your legacy systems don’t interfere with your most efficient projects and approaches.

Improving support for complex apps. DevOps allows you to build and manage apps faster and more efficiently, but even this approach has problems with especially complex apps. Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution here, since complex apps are often necessary to meet customer demand or stay modernized; instead, you’ll have to prepare to face this challenge head-on with a bigger budget and more skilled team members.

Finding ways to grow and improve. Every DevOps team will face problems as the culture is adopted and continues to grow. The key is to learn from your mistakes, and pinpoint specific, actionable strategies that can help you learn, adapt, and eventually improve. You need to set aside time and money specifically for team development, and commit yourself to learning new tactics and best practices if you want to be successful.

If you have a DevOps culture already in place, or if you’re looking to adopt one, you’ll need to be aware of these challenges. Fortunately, with multiple possible approaches and solutions available for each one, it shouldn’t take much time, money, or effort to compensate for them.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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