Three myths about DevOps and Agile

As the hype surrounding DevOps continues to grow, allowed misconceptions have flourished

In the Australian business landscape, many executives are feeling the pressure to accelerate speed to market by becoming Agile. From ANZ bank’s agile roll out to reach 13,000 employees, to Spotify’s popular organisational structure, it’s clear that organisations are recognising the ability to react faster, work better and deliver greater value with Agile principles.

More recently, DevOps has appeared as the latest set of principles to be adopted by the business world, delivering higher quality software and a first-class customer experience. Like Agile, DevOps promises enhanced efficiency, greater speed, better results and a wealth of opportunities to improve an organisations competitive edge. DevOps is delivering huge benefits to brands, such as Netflix and Etsy, which are a highly referenced practitioners of DevOps, as well as contributors to the technology and tools available in this space.

But as the hype surrounding DevOps continues to grow, naturally it has allowed misconceptions to flourish. Companies are mistakenly viewing DevOps as a successor or alternative to Agile. Companies need to understand that DevOps is not replacing Agile any more than Design Thinking is replacing Lean. While it may be tempting to approach DevOps or Agile as cookie-cutter solutions to gain a competitive edge, companies that do so run the risk of missing out on the true potential of these frameworks.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for adoption of DevOps and Agile. To harness their true potential, first consider these as frameworks to apply to organisations. Accenture has outlined and demystified the three major misconceptions surrounding DevOps and Agile:

1. Frameworks are not products

Simply put, DevOps does not exist as a product. It’s a framework with principles and practices, not a discrete package that can be rolled out into a business. Similarly, there is no predetermined, ‘shake-and-bake’ approach to a successful Agile transformation just like companies cannot purchase a Lean add-on, or a Design Thinking overlay.

Some organisations achieve mesmerising results by implementing DevOps and Agile principles, but these results aren’t included in the frameworks themselves. There is no single solution that will work for every company, the real magic of the framework lies in how it is applied to an organisation.

2. DevOps is not ‘better than’ Agile

Agile and DevOps are both designed to help organisations optimise value. Each framework does this in its own way, but it’s important to remember that these methods are not contradictory. Neither is inferior to the other, they’re just different.

Ultimately, frameworks offer different approaches to achieving similar goals. Where Agile might be a perfect fit for one problem, DevOps might provide higher value for another. Each has its own merits. That means it’s less about using the right framework, and more about using it for the right reasons.

3. Not all coaches are created equal

Implementing Agile or DevOps requires significant effort from companies because the consequences are far-reaching. Given the impact these frameworks can have on a company, it’s a wise approach to enlist the help of qualified support. Choosing the right coaches can make or break a transformation. But there are many different types of coaches, so companies will have to be discerning in selecting the correct one.

Distinguishing between transformation consultants, enterprise and personal coaches is an important step toward finding the talent best equipped to handle a company’s specific situation. Organisations need to define their own coaching strategy in line with their transformation approach and choose their coaches appropriately as each coach has their own unique skill set.

Each framework has its own approach to minimising these risks, and the right framework is highly dependent on the organisation. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), for example, emphasises leadership support on all levels. It is attractive for large organisations as it provides more guidance for common enterprise concerns like budgeting and technology roadmaps. To support this large organisations need visionary leadership as much as it needs grassroots growth. SAFe can be a good starting point, but might not be the end of the journey as organisations continue to evolve to achieve higher levels of agility and autonomy across their organisation.

Considering culture to achieve lasting change

When applied correctly, DevOps and Agile frameworks allow companies to reach incredible results. But companies need to be weary: falling for the pre-conceived ideas and myths of DevOps and Agile can cost businesses dearly.

To successfully adopt these frameworks, cultural change is the most crucial step in any transformation. But it’s also the hardest to achieve. In our experience at Accenture, resistance to change is often a major obstacle to transformation, but it’s what is required to remain competitive.

While larger companies anticipate challenges, the switch to DevOps and Agile doesn’t need to be stressful. Companies must reflect on the essence of their organisation and the problems they are trying to solve Agile and DevOps are not solutions on their own – they are methods to solve those problems. By the same logic, coaches are much more than agents of change. They are the advisors, guides and supporters that assist teams and talent in becoming agents of change themselves.

Mirco Hering is the Accenture Asia Pacific lead for Agile/DevOps.

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