3 Tips When You’re Struggling With DevOps

You’ve started down the road of a DevOps transformation, but you’re struggling on the journey. You might not be improving the performance of your teams and organization like you had hoped. You’re probably wondering why and, more importantly, how to get back on track. DevOps transformations are hard. If they were easy, everybody would have already gone through them.

Here are a few tips you can use to get things moving more quickly in the right direction.

1. Understand why you want DevOps.
You may have gotten caught in the trap of focusing on the “what” of DevOps rather than the “why” of DevOps. Reconnect with the business goals you had for adopting DevOps patterns and practices in the first place because you’re probably not “doing DevOps to do DevOps.” You likely had signs indicating you needed DevOps. Were you experiencing painful releases or prolonged outages? Were your cycle times too long? Do you operate in a “signoff and silo” culture? Are your competitors out-innovating you and beating you to the punch with new products? Make sure you’re really clear on the business impact you hope to achieve through a DevOps transformation and then communicate that. Being clear with people will help get them on board with making it happen.

2. Get the big picture for how works gets done.
You may be doing a lot of things you had hoped would pay off, but you’re not seeing the results from those activities. Your cycle time isn’t coming down. Your release frequency isn’t increasing. Your defect rate isn’t getting any better. What’s the deal? You might not be working on the things that will have the most impact on the metrics you care most about. In complex organizations with complex processes and complex technology, it’s hard to know where the best “bang for the buck” is. Understanding the flow of work and making that work visible will help you determine where to focus your efforts for maximum benefit. Tools like value stream mapping and kanban boards give you a bigger, clearer perspective on how works gets done. These tools expose inefficiencies so you can target them and avoid the guesswork on what will produce the most value.

3. Go for small, quick wins.
You may be trying to do too much at once and losing effectiveness in what you’re doing because you’re spread too thin. Too much “work in process” (WIP) is a productivity and value killer. You want to get the value of completed work as soon as possible and reduce the risk of waste (i.e., things you do that don’t produce value). Change is hard enough. Don’t make it harder by being slow and inefficient, too. Is there a particularly problematic or error-prone step in your workflow? Is there a manual task that could really benefit from automation? Is there information you could provide that would help with decision-making? Address those items first and get them fixed quickly. Get some small things “done done”, reap the benefits of that work, and start building momentum for doing more, bigger, and better things.

Hopefully these tips help you get back on track with your DevOps transformation and make progress toward your business goals — the real reasons you started this journey in the first place.

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