Embracing enterprise DevOps

Don’t treat DevOps as an implementation project, says Accenture’s Mirco Hering

The discussion around enterprise DevOps has matured significantly over the last two or three years according to Mirco Hering.

But while many organisations are keen to embrace the idea, far fewer have successful embraced it at a strategic level says Hering, the APAC lead for Accenture’s DevOps and Agile practice.

“What I call enterprise DevOps is really the end-to-end, overall strategy to make sure that these different things fit together, as well as the implementation of technical practices, cultural change, change management to bring developers and operations and the system admins on that journey,” he says. “That’s what only a few organisations are really doing at the moment.”

“The pressure is on the CIO to do more with less and do it faster,” Hering says. “I think that’s where they start looking for new solutions and DevOps seems to offer the silver bullet. What people tend to not understand is that it’s a transformation – it’s not an implementation project where you just implement a specific tool or a specific practice.”

“You really have to change the way that your organisation responds and it’s very often bundled with Agile, so that you bring business closer to IT and then make IT more responsive,” Hering says.

Along with treating DevOps as an implementation project — “We’re going to implement DevOps and then after 12 months we are done” — another misstep he often sees is people declaring success too early on their DevOps journey.

“It’s a bit like Agile was, when as soon as post-it notes were all over the wall people said ‘Agile is done’,” he says.

“‘We’ve installed Jenkins, we have CI, we’re now using AWS, it means we’re DevOps.’ I think it requires experience to understand how far you can push these solutions, and how far you can really go, so that you’re not declaring success too early and then falling back into old patterns.”

Driving change

Hering says that where he’s seen the best results, implementing DevOps-inspired transformations has been both a top-down and bottom-up process. “You have to have support from the top and you have to create a bit of a movement from below,” he says.

A tool that Accenture has found particularly useful is value stream mapping (VSM), he says.

“We have the CIO and representatives from all parts of IT and we map out the end-to-end process for IT delivery, from idea in the business all the way until it is running in production and being supported,” he says.

“We then go through all the different activities that will fall into that, we go through the cycle time for specific activities, we highlight areas where you have quality concerns or there’s a lot of rework. That gives you a good map of where you should start looking – where should you use the big toolbox that DevOps has to start making life better.”

“You really focus on things that are hurting at the moment,” he says. “Then on the flip side you do change management to make sure that people actually understand what continuous integration is, what continuous delivery is, how to do test automation well. For all of those there’s a lot of misconceptions out there and I think that change management component is very important.”

“It’s really a big transformation that you’re getting into, but you can take it one bite at a time.”

Conquering legacy

“We see two strategies we are helping clients to explore” when it comes to dealing with legacy systems, says Mirco Hering.

One is putting an API layer in front of them.

“I think that’s what’s very popular at the moment,” he says. “We’re working with a government client and they have a big old mainframe system. The way that they’re enabling their digital services is by providing a service layer where those mainframe services are abstracted. So when you go in and request a new visa it basically consumes a bunch of mainframe services but they can continue reworking the workflow and the user engagement without actually having to change the mainframe.”

The other approach is the so-called ‘strangler pattern’: “The idea there is that you take a big application and you carve things out of it until that old application disappears. Rather than doing a big change and transforming it, you carve out the user registration and do it somewhere else, and then you carve out let’s say the shopping cart and put it somewhere else. You use that model to make the legacy smaller and smaller over time.”

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