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Five pitfalls to avoid when getting started with DevOps

JK
Jobin Kuruvilla
22 March 2021 DevOps
DevOps figure of eight

Organisations are increasingly turning to DevOps as a means to become more collaborative and deliver software more rapidly–both internally and to customers.

But for many, the actual implementation remains challenging. There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint for successfully introducing DevOps into your business, and companies often end up making the same common mistakes in their implementations. 

In this blog, we harness our expertise in DevOps consultancy to discuss the five most common pitfalls businesses can suffer from when getting started with DevOps.

#1: Starting too big

When commencing your DevOps journey, it’s wise to start on a small scale with a focused DevOps team, produce tangible benefits that you can show to the wider business, and then scale up. 

A large-scale project aligned with wider organisational goals inevitably introduces too much and can lead to longer delays. For this first project find the people who are keen to work in a DevOps style before trying to convince everyone else. On the other hand, if the scope of the project is too small, whatever success you have achieved could be trivialised.

A good starting point might be a project that is small enough to control any risk, but big enough to cut across organisational boundaries and produce valuable outcomes. Once you can demonstrate predictable success on a smaller scale, it is easier to build on it and scale-up.

#2: Neglecting metrics that matter

What gets measured, gets done. Without solid metrics, you won’t have any way of gauging whether your DevOps implementation is doing what you want it to do, or if it includes problem areas that need to be rectified. 

Some of the core metrics that should be used to govern DevOps programs include deployment (or change) frequency, change lead time, and mean time to recovery (MTTR)

Deployment (or change) frequency essentially indicates how fast code can flow through the organisation and out to production. The reason why it matters is that it tells you how tight your feedback loops are - how often you’re able to deliver value and get feedback from end-users.

Another essential metric is ‘change lead time’, which measures the lead time for code changes from the start of a development cycle (the first new code) to the point it is released. Both change frequency and change lead time can help you assess the overall efficiency of your processes and the general capabilities of your development team.

Once your code is in production, ‘Mean Time to Recovery’ (MTTR) is a metric that provides useful insights into the average time it takes to restore service after an outage. Needless to say, for DevOps deployments to have value, MTTR must be low. It should, in fact, show an overall decrease over time, as the experience and capabilities of your teams improve.

The bottom line is that if you’re using DevOps methodology, you need solid metrics to help inform data-driven decisions that can guide your continuous improvement efforts. It also becomes easier to demonstrate to the C-Suite why DevOps matters and how it impacts business outcomes, improving engagement and buy-in. 

#3: Treating security as an afterthought

Security is a critical aspect of any DevOps implementation, and not one worth procrastinating on since the consequences of a security vulnerability can be nothing short of catastrophic.

When embarking on a DevOps project, it makes sense to define security priorities early on and integrate security practices and protocols from the start to avoid stalling the software delivery and development pipeline with innumerable changes and patches. 

Further, use DevSecOps, a security-oriented flavour of DevOps, weaves security and compliance testing into all stages of the DevOps lifecycle, rather than conducting them collectively at the last minute. Security controls and testing are embedded from the beginning (the practice of “shift left” security) and are integrated tightly into your DevOps process end-to-end. 

To successfully implement DevOps, you need to identify your security and compliance requirements beforehand and automate as much of it as possible, working in tandem with your security and compliance people. That said, automation will never be a solve-all approach. Organisations must invest significant time and resources into training their teams in secure development and operations protocols so security is built into the entire process–not just an approval gate before release.

#4: Not implementing automation properly

The successful introduction of automation into your organisation involves more than just selecting a particular tool or scripting language. You must have a conscious strategy based on your unique businesses processes and pain points. 

It makes sense to understand the big picture of how all your processes and subprocesses tie together beforehand. A good starting point is to take stock of your existing development processes - both manual or automated - and identify which processes should be kept, created, or fixed, and what specific problems need to be solved. 

Instead of applying automation verbatim on every process, choose to fix or six specific bottlenecks proving a pain point for teams before you identify the candidates for automation or those where human errors are most significant.

It ultimately boils down to understanding your own requirements well when it comes to development, testing, and deployment. Once you have that information, it is easy to bring in the appropriate processes and automated tools. 

#5: Not preparing for a cultural change

Successful implementation of DevOps and Agile transformation initiatives demands a cultural shift, where teams collaborate. It’s common, however, for organisations to underestimate the people transformation that’s central to a successful DevOps implementation. 

We recommend a phased and careful transition by educating and training your teams on these new DevOps practices. They should have the right frameworks to facilitate careful cross-team collaboration and eliminate siloed processes that slow down and complicate software delivery.

An open and collaborative culture will allow teams to own the processes and tools that they work on, making them more willing to focus on both the development and operations side of the process and unify different activities into a consistent, reliable and repeatable process. 

Whether you’re planning to start your DevOps journey or have already commenced one, taking heed of the above considerations will help you eliminate several painful challenges and significantly increase the likelihood of overall project success. 

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