Are we thinking about DevOps wrong? It’s not about Culture – it’s about Management!

Written by Rajat Bhargava on July 14, 2014

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There has been a wave of articles related to culture in DevOps. It makes sense – with so many organizations shifting to the methodology, there has to be some basis in the drinking water of a company to accept a dramatic change like DevOps. At our recent DevOps State of the Union dinner event in Santa Clara, we asked our expert panelists and media/analyst friends to offer their thoughts. It was a lively discussion to say the least. Our goals were to define DevOps, articulate a long-term vision for it and then talk about how we can get there from here (this post explores our quest to define DevOps).

DevOps Requires Great Management

A key part of that discussion was what it takes to make DevOps work in an organization. There is no doubt that culture plays a huge role in the success of DevOps, but our group centered in on something even more critical – great management. The team talked about how a senior management team’s fingerprints are all over an organization and if DevOps is to succeed, there will need to be strong management. DevOps is about changing an organization to move faster, innovate more, and bring products and services to market that better fit an organization’s customer base. It is about leading people and sharing with them why the business needs to go where they think it does and build the confidence in the team that it will get there.

Those kinds of fundamental changes at an enterprise are hard to do. They require coordination, politics, money, and fortitude. A weak leadership team will crumble against the weight and opposition of DevOps. And, there is lots of opposition as our expert panelists pointed out. Organizations are moved / consolidated. Jobs are potentially eliminated. Skills need to change. Tools and infrastructure change. People need to re-learn what they are doing. Right now, with so few known case studies of the success of DevOps (there are many, but they aren’t public!), strong management is required to shift a company into that mode.

More Shots on Goal

Strong management leads a company and DevOps requires leadership. It takes organizations saying that the increased cost and time right now will be worth it because it will help us move faster in the future. A core part of that point which was probably one of the central debate points of the evening was how to convey to leadership the value of DevOps. I talked about it as “more shots on goal” – essentially, more updates to a product or service to get close to what customers want. While that may not be the exact definition of DevOps of the value point for everybody, strong management will need to come up with those points and articulate them to their teams.

Interestingly enough, the night was a lively debate, but the point that DevOps is about management leading was seemingly universally echoed by the group. What do you think? Is DevOps about management? Is it about culture? What matters more?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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