Imitation is Limitation – Why Your Agile and DevOps Transformations are Failing
By Nicole Bryan
If you’re a business or IT leader trying to compete in a digital world, you need to leverage your software delivery capabilities to the max to stay competitive. If you don’t, your organization is ripe for digital disruption from younger, more digital-centric companies.
To address this threat, you’ve probably adopted widely publicized Agile and DevOps practices to enhance your software delivery. Perhaps you or one of your team were inspired by a dazzling presentation at a tech conference that implied, “If you copy this model, you can enjoy the same success!”
But tread softly. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to Agile and DevOps, and imitating the successful transformations of Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, et al. will not necessarily improve your capability to quickly deliver quality software. In fact, it may be detrimental, leading to more bottlenecks and waste that could cost your business millions in lost productivity.
Why is there no silver bullet or magical blueprint? Largely it’s because you’re not the same as those digital disruptors. In fact, you’re distinctly different businesses, each with its own unique software ecosystems. These nuances must be understood if you’re to have any success with your digital transformation.
To understand why, it’s important to remind ourselves of the core values of Agile and DevOps. Both are about delivering value to the customer and for the business, and regard operational waste as the scourge of delivering consistent end-to-end value. With this in mind, let’s look at how waste is created, and value lost, when a large organization tries to scale its transformations.
Digital-native companies can adopt a ‘trial and error’ approach to building new software innovations, relaxed in the knowledge that it’s not the end of the world if there’s a bug in the system (as it can be easily rectified). Whereas larger organizations, such as banks or healthcare providers, require a more diligent approach. They will be using heavyweight tools to ensure rigorous scanning of requirements, builds and tests to limit the risk of software downtime so they can always access bank accounts and find medical records. Being tied to such influential legacy tools within the workflow can slow down the speed with at which teams can operate – unless these tools are working in harmony with all the other tools in the lifecycle, which they’re not naturally designed to do.
Back in the day, companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn were private and didn’t need to worry about regulatory or corporate policies. Now that they are public, they must adhere to strict rules and regulations, as do most established organizations. Audits are a huge part of industries such as financial and healthcare, and the software delivery environment must document every activity within the software lifecycle. More teams and tools mean more elements that need to be consistently recorded across all systems and databases so there’s ‘one source of truth.’ Without an automated flow of information into a centralized point, this process is a time-consuming manual entry task for big enterprises, generating huge amounts of waste on non-value work. Smaller private companies don’t have such pressing audit concerns, if any at all, meaning more time spent on value-added activities.
- Developer pool
Large global organizations tend to have thousands more developers than their younger competitors. All of these developers have their preferred tool and Agile methodology, which creates much conflict and discourse. Meanwhile, digital-native companies tend to work from the same place – the same tool, same methodology and a clear, shared goal. A connected software value stream can help organizations create unity and increase understanding in every aspect of the software development and delivery lifecycle, removing waste and keeping the focus on value-added work.
- Partner concerns
To operate at a high level across the board, parts of the business are outsourced to third parties to develop components or even whole non-trivial applications. Unfortunately, these third parties are unlikely to share the same toolset as their client, creating a discontinuity of information that causes unnecessary friction. Again, digital-centric companies are unlikely to have such concerns, as they won’t be delegating or outsourcing on such a large scale. With a system in place to connect an organization’s toolchain with its partners, the flow of information can be instant and controlled.
These are just a few of the key encumbrances that larger organizations must contest with, and that heavily influence any Agile and DevOps transformation. By this point, you may be thinking “Well, what’s the point? The game’s over. Throw in the towel!” But don’t give up, because there is a way forward.
Many transformations fail because the flow of project-critical information between key stakeholders is too slow, damaged or AWOL. This means much waste, a plethora of doomed projects and lot of unhappy, disengaged employees.
This information must be flowed across tools, teams, disciplines, organizations and partners, as the data’s very creation was intended to do. To do this, you need to integrate your software lifecycle, which resolves any conflict or friction caused by scaling tool deployments and projects.
Not only will this remove the barriers between tools and teams, helping them to work together and enhancing their individual value, but it will enable the enterprise to easily expand and manage its tool landscape. And it will result in a software ecosystem that is tailored to an individual organization’s needs and that supports customer requirements.
By creating an integrated software value stream, you create a robust backbone with which to scale Agile and DevOps transformations, enabling your organization to compete (and innovate) in a digital world.
Nicole Bryan is Vice President, Product Management at Tasktop Technologies. Nicole has extensive experience in software and product development, focused primarily on bringing data visualization and human considerations to the forefront of Application Lifecycle Management. Most recently, she served as director of product management at Borland Software/Micro Focus, where she was responsible for creating a new Agile development management tool. Prior to Borland, she was a director at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Regulatory Division, where she managed some of the first Agile project teams at the NYSE, and VP of engineering at OneHarbor (purchased by National City Investments). Nicole holds a Master of Science in Computer Science from DePaul University. She is passionate about improving how software is created and delivered – making the experience enjoyable, fun and yes, even delightful.