Agile and DevOps is so last year

DevOps is the topic du jour but ComputerworldUK finds out if it has truly gone mainstream and whether vendors' 'Agile' orientated products will do the job.


“In Silicon Valley it’s hard to find large or small company that has embraced or put DevOps into use” says CA Technologies’ newly appointed chief product officer, Aymen Sayed. Read next: What is DevOps?

Twelve weeks into the job, the former network ops lead at Cisco is heading up the CA Technologies’ new Agile management and delivery apps and consultant services.

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Enterprises are evolving business models to embrace the idea that, “every company is a software company.” So why are we still banging on about buzzwords like Agile and DevOps?

The concept of Agile software development landed in the early nineties, and the first manifesto was published in the early noughties. It’s taken several years, but vendor’s packaging of the concept as products for non technology businesses shows Agile will prevail. While DevOps is a separate concept, it complements the Agile method, by breaking down barriers between traditionally separate operations and development teams within IT. 

Sayed says despite the hype, large enterprises are still getting these methods wrong and therefore true DevOps and Agile for non-technology businesses is a relatively new concept.  CIOs, CTOs and increasingly business users may have embraced Agile and DevOps on paper but struggle to commit to it throughout the software life cycle from idea to the point of delivery.

Who is using DevOps and Agile?

Businesses are wary of publicly proclaiming they’ve reached the point of continuous delivery, but a few have come forward to share challenges and tips.

Lloyds Banking Group adopted the software development approach to achieve its digital transformation plans in 2014. It launched a DevOps team within its Digital Banking division led by Jake McCarthy, Group Infrastructure Architecture CTO and DevOps lead. It will be an ongoing, and tricky task for a large institution. Speaking at a Gartner conference last year, McCarthy said: “Our company is complex and difficult to manoeuvre: it is like steering a big tanker, things can take time to move.”

Similarly, the Financial Times, British American Tobacco, Ocado and Lotus Formula 1 have been vocal about their ambitions.

Analyst house Gartner reckons a quarter of the Global 2000 (a list of the largest companies in the world) will adopt DevOps next year and officially become a mainstream business structure.

The results are often impressive. Aruna Ravichandran, CA Technologies’ DevOps lead says that one large American bank has seen its deployments escalate from 150 per month to 39,000 since adopting the model.


Aruna Ravichandran, CA Technologies' DevOps marketing lead

Despite the promise of reduced resources and more effective internal and customer-facing apps, DevOps and Agile management is difficult to build a business case for.

“You have to be a change agent if you really want DevOps. For unparalleled results you need to have shared metrics and goals and that needs to be align with the CIO function responsible for tooling infrastructure. That is the only way you can provide exceptional customer experience,” says Ravichandran.

With an engineering and computer science background, Ravichandran truly understands the conflicts between development, operations and the executive level. With “one million lines of code” for building applications during a career at HP behind her, she's since moved to “the business side”, heading up DevOps marketing at CA Technologies.

Asked why vendors are marketing their products around concepts, she says: “DevOps is a cultural transformation. There is no market share for DevOps.”

“New companies like Facebook have mastered the art. Development guys carry pagers – they don’t have an ops team.”

But unfortunately, for many large businesses, “it’s not possible. They have a very large ops team which is in silos.”

She recognises that culture is most important aspect to getting apps to market quicker. Building centres of excellence to ensure strict methods are applied throughout global companies is a good way to go, Ravichandran says.

Communication is often a pitfall, she says.

“How do companies achieve it? In terms of people and process they need shared goals and a shared vision. If business leaders have different goals you really cannot have a cultural transformation.”

But there are tools that can help large-scale companies feel smaller again.

These tools are, at worst, a glorified project management software, and at best, a means to collaborate (Google hangouts, for example) and ensure iteration and feedback is as fast as possible so that the right people can focus on writing code to automate the laborious tasks so there is more time to focus on revenue creation.

DevOps is a continual process, and businesses will experience challenges specific to their company culture. It’s one of the most drawn out trends in IT, but with Gartner’s prediction that 2016 will be the year of Agile, prepare to hear about it a lot more.

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