How to Build a DevOps Center of Excellence

Whether you are new to DevOps or a seasoned pro, a DevOps Center of Excellence can help your organization maximize the potential of DevOps.

Mark Runyon, Director of Consulting, Improving

December 18, 2020

4 Min Read
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DevOps is transforming how IT teams approach software. Technology leaders have seen the value that DevOps brings to the software development lifecycle, and many have embraced it. Regardless of whether you are plotting your move into DevOps or if your company is a seasoned pro, a DevOps Center of Excellence (CoE) can help your organization maximize the potential of DevOps.

First, what do we mean by center of excellence? A center of excellence assembles a team to focus on a single business area in order to craft a set of best practices, offer support, and become the advocates for their field of expertise. DevOps naturally lends itself to a CoE since it pulls together a cross-disciplinary team to create a framework for releasing better software, faster. Let’s look at four ways a DevOps Center of Excellence can help your organization take DevOps to the next level:   

1. Assemble a team

To build a DevOps Center of Excellence, you need the right pieces in place. When we create a CoE, we want the organization’s weight behind it, and we want our best running it.

When we say our best, that doesn’t just mean our cross-disciplinary knowledge experts. These are also people who can train our DevOps teams as well as sell our vision to executive stakeholders. They need to take ownership of the process and become the brand evangelists for the center of excellence. Regardless of how well we plan, if we don’t have the right team in place to execute our strategy, the whole effort may be wasted.

2. Create a knowledge and learning hub

Your DevOps Center of Excellence should be the foundation of the organization’s DevOps knowledge. Too often, critical knowledge is wrapped up in the heads of key resources. When those people are on PTO or leave for another job, the organization feels the weight of that reliance, and can’t easily fill the void. It’s essential for this knowledge to be sufficiently documented and rest with the DevOps CoE so it can be easily accessed and disseminated to those who need it. Business leaders need to budget time for documenting this knowledge.

The DevOps Center of Excellence should define the organization’s best practices and teach these policies and procedures to all practitioners. Creating the necessary frameworks allow people to freely move between projects and plug right in, knowing there is a consistent approach wherever they land. The DevOps CoE should lead the charge in not only defining the standards, but also evolving them. The center of excellence should always be maturing its DevOps process to help it become more effective and efficient.

3. Define the toolset

There is a proliferation of DevOps tools in the marketplace. When left to their own devices, isolated DevOps teams can settle into their own tools based on prior experience and technical preferences. This creates a patchwork of DevOps toolsets that are difficult for the organization to manage, fostering pockets of tribal knowledge and poor maintainability.

A DevOps Center of Excellence should work to define what the standard DevOps toolset are across the organization and should monitor teams to ensure they are adhering to that standard. The CoE engineers should become experts in the features of these toolsets and explore complimentary third-party offerings to get the most out of their build and deployment processes. From code testing to security checks, knowing your DevOps toolset can help you be proactive in your software releases, ensuring only the best product makes it to the end consumer.

4. Let automation drive DevOps

Manual build and release processes are prone to error, lack repeatability and are time consuming. Through automation, DevOps solves these problems, allowing us to do much more than we would be able to manually. Automation is at the heart of DevOps.

The DevOps Center of Excellence should always be exploring how further automation can improve DevOps procedures. The team needs to stay abreast of the latest advancements in the space and continually ask how they can make the process more efficient, more secure and more reliable through automation.

In establishing a DevOps Center of Excellence, we are creating the engine that drives the success of DevOps within the organization. That engine is only as good as its people, its practices, its tools and its push for automation. All this is made possible with executive support. Without buy-in from the C-level on down, your DevOps Center of Excellence may not get the necessary resources and priority that it requires to be successful. It is essential to explain and sell to the executive team how a DevOps CoE can transform this pivotal aspect of the organization.

About the Author(s)

Mark Runyon

Director of Consulting, Improving

Mark Runyon works as a director of consulting for Improving. For the past 20 years, he has designed and implemented innovative technology solutions for companies in the finance, logistics, and pharmaceutical space. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences and is a contributing writer at The Enterprisers Project. He focuses on IT management, DevOps, cloud, and artificial intelligence. Mark holds a Master of Science in Information Systems from Georgia State University.

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