There is little doubt that DevOps has become a term du jour in tech circles over the last couple of years. Many tech firms understand the concept as a culture transformation. And they likely understand that collaboration in order to speed up production cycle times can be a win-win for companies and consumers alike. But I’m still not convinced that we’ve fully explored what it takes to truly embed the principles of DevOps in sustainable ways that yield tangible results.
To explore this important topic further, I spent some time with Alon Girmonsky, CEO of BlazeMeter, a Palo Alto-based software firm that specializes in solving one of the more complicated problems in application development – continuous performance testing.
BlazeMeter provides a next generation tool to help ensure that applications that are being developed are able to perform at high levels before actually going live. Nothing sucks more than launching the latest version of your fancy new app only to have the wheels fall off when the masses begin downloading it.
A former software officer with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Intelligence Corps, and a background with several tech firms since his military days, Girmonsky is no stranger to the tech world. Or to the challenge of bringing together diverse groups of professionals to get a job done.
Embedding DevOps Into Company Culture
Around 2010, Girmonsky began to see a fundamental shift in how software development firms were approaching their work. In order to speed up the pace in which they were able to launch their software, these organizations were beginning to redefine how their teams operated and collaborated.
With 20 years of experience as a developer, he quickly realized that DevOps was a revolutionary shift in the tech world. It wasn’t limited to surface changes such as one or two processes but, rather, a fundamental shift in the DNA of software companies.
BlazeMeter serves as a partner to tech firms who are trying to move to a DevOps culture. They support from an infrastructure perspective by increasing the velocity in which their clients can launch software while minimizing the risk of their applications running into issues after launch.
As the CEO, Girmonsky also sees DevOps from the perspective of a tech leader who leverages DevOps principles in his own organization to best serve his customers. Here’s his advice for other tech leaders who are looking to move towards a DevOps methodology in their organizations:
- “First, understand the why.” CEOs and their teams must take time to really examine why they desire to transform their businesses to a DevOps model. Is it because everyone else is doing it or is it truly because it is the right model to execute on your business strategy?
- “Recruit talent that can thrive in this type of environment.” If a DevOps transformation is truly a culture shift, then we’re really asking for people to thrive in an environment that conflicts with many of the longstanding beliefs and assumptions that have guided work for years. Some people just aren’t willing or able to change their behaviors in ways that support DevOps success. Find ways to recruit talent that understands the benefits of a DevOps culture and can deliver on what you need to drive your business forward.
- “Carefully select infrastructure that can support this type of work.” One way an organizational culture manifests itself in the day-to-day is through the systems and processes that leaders use to help manage behavior. The infrastructure aligns with the underlying values of company. When organizations are transitioning to a DevOps work environment, careful consideration of the infrastructure must be taken into account to help ensure that these systems and processes do, in fact, support and align with the collaborative and high velocity mindset and behaviors that you are driving towards.
“DevOps is not something that you can just declare and implement next week,” Girmonsky adds. “It’s a transformation that deserves full attention and must be taken seriously in order to be successful.”
It’s All About Culture
Maybe it’s just a function of me being a culture guy by profession. But, from my lens, the bottom-line is that you can purchase all of the hardware in the world to implement DevOps but at its core, DevOps is not a thing, it’s a way of working.
If you can’t create a system that transforms peoples’ behavior, through clarifying roles and responsibilities, helping people to understand why this new way of working is critical to success or how the implementation of technology platforms will require behavioral change, you run the risk of implementing a technological solution that is rejected by the organization’s culture.
Saugatuck Technology’s 2014 report entitled “Why DevOps Matters” illustrates this point clearly. When respondents were asked to identify the top challenges in using a DevOps approach, the most common obstacle was the culture of the organization.
With organizational culture being the standout challenge for utilizing a DevOps methodology, it will be interesting to see how companies are able to find ways to understand and evolve their underlying cultures to help make the transition to a DevOps environment.
Whenever we try to get people to work with a new system or in a new way, cultural change will be required and risk is an inevitable component of the success or failure of the shift. The question is, what will be the change catalyst? The adoption of a new methodology forcing change, or a preemptive effort to adjust the culture to allow for change? Furthermore, how will IT business leaders interested in DevOps align their organizations’ systems and processes to support the behavior change required to ensure that DevOps has a significant and sustainable impact on performance?
I will be exploring these very questions more in the coming months, and I welcome your input on the topic as we continue to learn together.