DevOps as part of the IT value cycle
Author: Mark Smalley
Extending the DevOps philosophy to benefit the whole IT value cycle
In a previous piece ‘DevOps – the prequel and sequel’ I described how the 3 Ways of DevOps can be extended to provide a better context to DevOps. The 3 Ways, as described in the ‘must read’ book, The Phoenix Project refer to the underpinning principles from which all DevOps patterns can be derived. They describe the values and philosophies that frame the processes, procedures, practices, as well as the prescriptive steps. The principles are:
- Systems thinking
- Amplified feedback loops
- Culture of continuous learning and experimentation
I illustrated this in the form of an IT value chain, starting with business demand and ending with business use, and comprising a prequel to DevOps, DevOps itself, and a sequel. The numbers refer to the three applications of the 3 Ways of DevOps and are detailed in the previous piece.
So what happens before any development activities commence? Somebody in the business has a business issue and suspects that it could be addressed by better, quicker or cheaper (access to) information. Or somebody sees an opportunity to use IT to influence business benefits, costs and risks. Whether it is pull or push, when this has been validated, we can safely say that there is demand. People involved in demand collaborate with those involved in development of the solution.
In the DevOps part, “a set of cultural norms and technical practices enable organizations to have fast flow of IT work from development through test and deployment while preserving world-class reliability, availability and security” (Gene Kim).
After deployment, the pivotal DevOps activity, the solution is available for the users. When the users use the solution effectively and efficiently, interpreting the information and taking appropriate action, value is realized. There is surprisingly little research in this crucial area but anecdotal evidence suggests that this might be the weakest link in the IT value chain. Consider for a moment your personal experience. How well (or not) information systems are used and how much (or little) support is available to guide the users in the right direction?
Closing the circle
The IT value chain starts with the business and ends with the business and it would be easy to assume that we’re referring to the same entity. But we’re not. Just as within the IT function there is Dev and there is Ops, there are people in the business who determine demand for resources such as information and related technology, and there are people who actually use the resources. They need to collaborate in order to produce the enterprise’s goods and services. Unfortunately, there is often a gap between those who decide, and those who deliver. Let’s see how a final duplication of the 3 Ways can help to close the circle (the numbers 10-12 refer to the next illustration).
- The more managers are aware of the practicalities of business operations, the better they are able to make effective investments.
- Conversely, a better understanding by business operations of the broader business context behind decisions, reduces the sadly familiar frustration “how earth could they think that this would work?” and help to transform the them-and-us relationship into something more productive and satisfying.
- Continuous experimentation and learning will improve the collaboration between business management and business operations.
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