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Digitally disruptive competition drives DevOps trend

CIOs have long had the means and methodologies to streamline IT service delivery -- and they have come up short. Here's why the DevOps trend is different from past failed attempts.

From a leadership perspective, it is hard to argue against the goals of the current DevOps trend. DevOps seeks to integrate the work performed by a company's application development team with the work performed by its systems operations team. The aim is to improve the quality and flow of that work through better communication, standardization, simplification, collaboration and automation.

DevOps builds on the Lean and Agile development practices that promote systemic thinking and rapid value creation. In many ways, the DevOps trend teaches IT professionals that they are critical links in a business supply chain, rather than a collection of technical experts narrowly focused on specific IT capabilities. These are laudable aims and goals.

However, it's important to note that these aims and goals are not new -- they were not created by the DevOps movement. IT organizations have long had the means, frameworks, tools and prescriptive guidance to achieve them. Our industry is blessed with a library of best practices and guidance on how to improve communication and facilitate standardization, simplification and collaboration. IT tools for decades have been capable of much higher levels of integration and automation.

Despite the fact that the means have long been there to solve our internal IT delivery problems, the upshot is that our actual experience has been one of silo-based cultures, tribal leadership, intentional process variation and tool strategies that place more value on "best of breed" software than on integrated IT management suites.

So, is there anything different now that has not been the case for the last 20 years? Why do we think that the DevOps trend will result in success where many other frameworks have come and gone without invoking meaningful change?

The answers to these questions do not lie in what is new or unique about the DevOps trend, but in the external pressures that are driving IT to change.

Like most self-help or personal improvement programs, we typically do not pay attention or get serious about real change until there is some external force that intrudes on old habits in a way that makes it difficult if not impossible to ignore. Until the doctor gives you a shock by predicting your early demise, regular visits to the gym remain an elusive goal. Today, a multitude of urgent external drivers are forcing IT shops to change old ways -- and fast.

The cloud-enabled competitor at the door

Chief among those external drivers is cloud computing -- IT's big bad wolf at the door. The availability of cloud-based services has flattened the competitive IT landscape across all industries.

Digitally disruptive competition is at the CIO's door. And with this new degree of external pressure, organizations are forced to finally address long-standing cultural issues, political barriers and leadership gaps that have traditionally brought most IT improvement programs to their knees.

The ubiquitous availability of cloud-based technical services, coupled with inexpensive offshoring options, has rendered traditional delivery models obsolete. The lease vs. buy cloud services model has leveled the playing field and enabled business competition to rapidly come to market and disrupt traditional commercial models without having made years of investment in data centers, software factories or network infrastructure.

Thus, newly formed, built-on-the-web, app-enabled brands are now able to use cloud-based services and software-as-a-service business automation for core business processes in a matter of weeks, if not days. So enabled, they come to market with new and disruptive products in a fraction of the time it would take a traditional brick-and-mortar organization to respond.

Digitally disruptive competition does not apply to just external business competition. Another, observable trend is an increase in the use of so-called shadow IT investments, i.e., line of business purchases of IT services directly from the external market or in support of their own IT capability. Often, shadow IT is due to the perception by the business that internal IT's services are of poor quality, slow speed or cost more than what they can buy or contract for themselves. Rather than shadow IT, I prefer to call this phenomenon what it truly is: loss of market share for internal IT. If it goes on long enough and an IT organization loses the funding it requires based on expected revenue, there is only one financial outcome possible.

Disruptive competition and the emergence of DevOps

Digitally disruptive competition is at the CIO's door. And with this new degree of external pressure, organizations are forced to finally address long-standing cultural issues, political barriers and leadership gaps that have traditionally brought most IT improvement programs to their knees. So, now is the time to change -- and change rapidly -- in order to survive.

The banner many organizations are flying to combat digitally disruptive competition is DevOps.

To test this hypothesis, Pink Elephant recently conducted research into the motivations and critical success factors behind DevOps adoption. This research demonstrated that out of the 160 companies surveyed, more than two-thirds are focused on increasing "speed to value" by using the various principles and practices of the DevOps movement.

A summary of some of the key findings demonstrate the reality of the DevOps movement in our industry and why we believe that the IT push to improve the quality and flow of that work through better communication, standardization, simplification, collaboration and automation is different this time around.

Check out "Robust DevOps trend fueled by IT's need for speed, survey says" for DuMoulin's analysis of Pink Elephant's survey findings on what's driving the DevOps movement.

Next Steps

Optimizing IT processes for 'fast flow'

IT shops in the digital transformation age

The urgent case for DevOps governance

This was last published in August 2017

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