How to Do DevOps in Old-School Organizations

The best approach to DevOps is one step at a time, and that is particularly true for a well-established enterprise.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

March 22, 2017

3 Min Read
Robin Yeman, Lockheed Martin

Your organization may not fit the definition of a "unicorn" -- a private company valued at $1 billion or more -- but that doesn't mean it can't embrace DevOps and reap the rewards, says Robin Yeman, a Lockheed Martin fellow and veteran DevOps coach.

"The advantages unicorns have over their competitors is the ability to keep pace with rapid delivery schedules while maintaining secure, high quality capabilities," Yeman says. "Recent studies have shown that high performing companies can both scale up and increase the speed of delivery without any impact to quality."

Yeman, along with Suzette Johnson, leader of Northrop Grumman's Agile Center of Excellence, will present "DevOps for Old-School Organizations" at Interop ITX in Las Vegas on May 19.

Getting started

Transitioning to a DevOps culture requires an iterative and incremental approach that will take time for companies currently coping with legacy systems, Yeman says. "Teams cannot move from traditional methods to DevOps overnight," she notes, adding that it will take from one to three years, depending on the number of legacy technologies. "Focus on small changes while evaluating empirical data from those step changes to track improvements," Yeman recommends. "It would be impossible for different companies to have the same journey, because some practices that help one organization may prove to be detrimental to another."

Organizations embarking on an initial DevOps initiative should begin by visualizing the delivery pipeline, Yeman says. "Align goals across functions and develop a cross-functional team," she adds. Yeman also suggests leveraging automation as well as continuous integration, continuous testing and continuous deployment approaches.

According to Yeman, DevOps-focused organizations of all sizes and types should work methodically and in steps, resisting the temptation to rush into deployment before the proper groundwork has been established. "Define the goals of the organization," she says. "Increase transparency [and] increase responsiveness." Goals should include reductions in scheduling changes and costs while aiming for increased quality. "Identify the practices that support those goals," she says. "Implement one or two practices at a time, measure the results."

Avoiding pitfalls

Yeman notes that most DevOps newbies, even organizations that have operated successfully for many decades, tend to make the same mistakes. "A lack of investment in infrastructure will make teams go much slower and reduce quality," she observes. Untrained leadership and teams, not fully understanding beneficial practices and trying to do everything at once are other mistakes organizations make when stepping into DevOps for the first time. "Not measuring the results to have empirical evidence of what is working or not" is another common pitfall, Yeman says.

Fasten your seatbelts

Yeman notes that the entire DevOps field is accelerating at a breathtaking pace, making it challenging for new adopters to get a handle on the latest approaches and innovations. "Practices and technology are moving at the speed of light, focused on improving delivery," she says. "We have had Agile, now DevOps, but the next thing will be here before you know it."

Yeman's final bit of advice is short and simple. "Everything builds upon the practices of the last framework," she says. "Be ready to change."

[Robin Yeman and Suzette Johnson will present DevOps for Old-School Organizations at 9 am on Friday May 19 during Interop ITX at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Attendees will learn: How to re-evaluate your organization with DevOps in mind; How to develop a team with the right skills for your DevOps transition; How you can get started building a DevOps culture that complements your corporate culture.]

About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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