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The transition to a successful DevOps model isn’t simple or easy

IT departments currently face a constant "need for speed" from within the organization, predominantly driven by an increase in application and business demand. This isn't going to change any time soon. Indeed, according to Gartner, by the end of 2017 demand for app development services will grow at least five times faster than an internal IT organization's capacity to deliver them.

Speed is the competitive differentiator in a SaaS environment, but this can often place undue strain on IT. An effective DevOps strategy can alleviate this. It can also help research and development teams move faster, taking the launch cycle of a product from months to weeks. This is especially crucial at Lithium, given that our product is highly customizable, and those continual iterations help both us and our customers stay ahead of the game.

That said, the transition to a successful DevOps model isn't simple or easy; it requires a complete rethink for traditional engineering organizations.

With this in mind, below are five tips for CTOs and IT professionals looking to leverage DevOps in order to move to a more effective software development model without compromising on uptime or availability.

1. Start from the top
Buy-in from the executive team up-front is critical. With large transformations, executives need to understand the "why" and fully support it, especially when there are bumps in the road, which there will be.

To this end, it helps to present the need for this transformation with a business lens on, including budgets and benchmarks. Referring to successful case studies from prominent companies can also help, for example, holding up what Amazon and Google have achieved in terms of harnessing the speed delivered from shifting to a DevOps approach.

2. Big vision versus incremental delivery
This is the SCRUM principle brought to life. Articulating a big vision will help galvanize and energize your team. However, this can lead them to take on too much during each launch cycle in an attempt to quickly reach that goal. It's important that the team recognize and focus on the incremental steps necessary as they move towards it.

3. Invest in people and training
It is important that dev and ops teams work as one, and trust and respect each other enough to be able to create a joint DevOps culture and plans. As such, barriers between siloes need to be torn down.

To encourage this behavior, investing in training and team-building activities is important. Some effective ways to do this include creating meet-up groups to share learnings, and plugging into knowledge networks via working groups.

4. Legacy system challenges
With any IT transformation, there is guaranteed to be legacy system challenges, so be ready for them - but avoid rushing migration processes.

There may be a few systems that need to be moved to the cloud, and they will likely all be at different stages. In this context, it's important to resist the temptation to move them all at the same pace. Trying to do everything simultaneously will put undue pressure on the team and create larger systemic issues in the long term.

5. Implement top-down standards
Unless some standards come from the top of the organization, each team will figure out a path to get to the finish line independently, creating chaos. This also makes it hard to establish standards and scale your operation, which can lead to significant complexity, inefficiency and confusion within the DevOps team.

It is important to explain to the team why standards are important. Outline what is a guideline (can be changed) and what is a rule (must be adhered to). This will streamline processes and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Once an effective DevOps approach has been deployed, the business benefits can be multifold - from boosting proactive product strategy and delivery cycles, to reducing instability, mistakes and issues management. And with the "need for speed" only set to grow, it's best to make the move sooner rather than later.

More Stories By Sunil Rajasekar

As Chief Technology Officer of Lithium Technologies, Sunil Rajasekar oversees core product, development and delivery of Lithium's enterprise platform. He is a seasoned technology executive who has more than 15 successful years of enterprise, small business and consumer software experience.

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