Prepare DevOps for the digital Wild West

While innovation is the key to success and differentiation in the digital age, it can only drive revenue if brought to market by efficient software engineering and sufficient budget allocation. It is vital these business processes are fine-tuned to manage the unpredictability of today’s digital era.

Gartner compare the current IT landscape to a "digital Wild West" . The landscape is unpredictable and unforgiving, but with money to be made. Like a gold rush, the pace of development can often mean those who explore and dig first profit most. The most successful enterprises will be equipped with the right tools and techniques, meaning they can fully exploit the opportunity by innovating at short notice and by iterative means.

A bimodal approach

Gartner’s coining of the phrase "bimodal IT" is highlighted in a recent article: "IT organizations of the future will have two separate flavors, if you will: Type 1 is traditional IT, focused on stability and efficiency, while Type 2 is an experimental, agile organization focused on time-to-market, rapid application evolution, and, in particular, tight alignment with business units."

These two modes must both be fully developed if the IT department is to be effective at dealing with unpredictability. A half-baked approach will not suffice. Although the agile mode 2 is new and perhaps more exciting, it is important not to devalue the significance of mode 1 either explicitly, or implicitly by talking up mode 2 too much. There is no point in perfecting agile development if it means mode 1 suffers and is not as effective as it was before the bimodal initiative.

IT as a competitive differentiator

Software engineering the ideal starting point from which your company can develop a bimodal approach across all business processes. This is an opportunity for your IT department act as a competitive differentiator.

The implementation of a fully bimodal methodology is trial and error and will take time, money and a lot of brainpower. Currently, there is no set guide for introduction and the process may not yield immediately tangible results. However, undertaking fundamental groundwork now will optimise your business for long-term innovation capacity.

Agile development will require agile finance: budget responsibility will need to be decentralized from the CFO to individual lines of business to create the fluidity to channel funds where needed. With an agile approach, there need to be enough latent funds available to take on a six-week job at short notice. Opportunities for innovation need to be grasped, whether that originates from a client request or from an idea within your own company. IT funding must be primed accordingly.

The speed and iterative nature of the agile approach means projects are likely to accrue a large volume of technical debt; between 5-15% according to various analyst reports. So more Dev hours are required, needing more funding still.

An automation ethos

Automation can enable agility by dramatically reducing cost. It can help move vital resources from repetitive tasks to game-changing innovation, allowing your knowledge workers to reach peak performance. It’s likely that you already have sound processes in place, but automation makes them faster. It also means they can move from needing human concentration in business hours to being a ‘lights off’ process which can be done overnight, saving money and both brain and processor capacity.

This ethos can be employed across the board, with increasing scale and complexity. Automating financial processes frees up finance staff to drive the business. Automating core analytic reports frees up knowledge workers to develop new methods of analysing new strands of Big Data, which could be vital to business differentiation. In terms of an agile DevOps approach itself, workload automation, release automation, continuous automated testing and automated backups all help for an agile approach and a transparent, accurate process.

Once immersed in the automation ethos it soon becomes apparent which other, often more complex processes can easily be automated. Automation often begins as a method of speeding up simple tasks and ends up being ingrained in a company’s DNA, a tool used to drive business forward.

Changing the business mindset

Taking away the lethargy of repetitive manual tasks frees up knowledge workers to focus on removing the ambiguity surrounding the switch to a bimodal approach. Devs need to learn new methods not only of working, but also of thinking – a new mindset entirely. Those building an agile team must decide who of their staff can best cope with a culture of change and unpredictability. With mode 2 engineering, the plan they are used to working with will be ripped up.

The direction you take your IT department in 2015 should reflect the seismic shift IT currently faces. Practices need reinventing to embrace the digital age. The time and money automation save can be integral in achieving a fully bimodal approach that will allow your DevOps team to be prepared to manage uncertainty.

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