IT suffers from a significant silo issue and so improvement initiatives were mostly contained within the silo structure. Unfortunately, as teams embarked on parallel journeys towards improvement, there was not an intentional effort to cross-pollinate vocabulary, tools, and workflows across disciplines. While improvements were seen inside the silo, handoffs between silos became challenging and time consuming.
The latest initiative to catch the attention of IT is DevOps. Unlike other frameworks, DevOps is not documented in a single body of knowledge or library of publications. In fact, there is an ongoing debate over the actual definition of what constitutes DevOps. Is it a movement, a philosophy, a framework, or synonymous with continuous delivery? Is it more about culture or more about tools? Is it better than Agile for software development or ITIL for managing changes, incidents, problems, and requests? Is it more efficient than Lean?
No. DevOps is in fact a super-framework. It strives to connect the dots between other frameworks, tools, principles, practices, and vocabulary. Most importantly, the goal of DevOps is to instill systems thinking across the entire value stream in order to deploy faster and more frequently. For example, DevOps’ shift-left approach helps development, testing, security, and operational professionals engage their processes and practices earlier as an integral aspect of the entire system instead of as a downstream activity.
DevOps embodies the “people, process, and technology” philosophy by advocating that cultural transformation is as significant as digital transformation. Its emphasis on sharing and collaboration includes a cross-pollination of processes, principles, and practices. DevOps helps tools and teams become interoperable, potentially reducing the impact of incidents and problems while increasing the accuracy of knowledge and configuration management.
If looked at with an objective eye, DevOps was never intended to replace Agile, ITIL, Lean, or any other framework. In fact, DevOps embraces and incorporates many of these practices. In a DevOps environment, scrum teams will still produce increments of work but will engage in continuous integration’s daily commits. Successful continuous delivery will still require ITSM’s change and release management, but perhaps through the use of more standard changes and automated builds, tests, and deployments. DevOps will leverage Lean tools such as value stream mapping and Kanban boards to help visualize systems thinking and eliminate waste. DevOps will promote the use of continuous automation to increase speed but will also support integrations with many toolsets, including those implemented for Agile, ITSM, or Lean.
In order to realize the full benefits of a DevOps approach, individuals and enterprises have to let go of their loyalties to a specific framework and start looking at IT as a software factory that must continually deliver innovative yet reliable products to a waiting market. Every aspect of the production line from code to customer is wholly dependent on the other and cannot exist or operate in isolation. Everything IT has done to date, including its investment in other frameworks, is a contributor to the continual improvement of people, process, and technology.
It is only when we look at IT through the lens of a super-framework such as DevOps that we can truly transform to the digital age.