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Where to Begin Your DevOps Journey By @Datical | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

How long your journey takes depends on where you begin

Sanjeev Sharma, IBM's worldwide lead for DevOps technical sales, wrote an article recently describing a process for mapping out an IT organization's DevOps transformation (see article here).  As more and more IT professionals hear about the benefits and success stories in DevOps, they naturally begin their own investigations to determine if it would be a good fit for their organizations. One of the first questions they ask, and that Sanjeev hears often when consulting with clients, is about how long a DevOps transformation will take.

"A question I get asked often is how long will it take my organization to adopt DevOps? First of all, one does not just adopt DevOps. One starts a journey of adopting the capabilities that make up DevOps (more on that soon). Adopting DevOps is not a one-time thing – it is an ongoing thing. That said, even when it comes to adopting a single capability of DevOps, say Continuous Delivery, how long it takes you depends on where you start."

That last part – "how long it takes you depends on where you start" – is probably the most important factor in determining how long your transformation will take.  Remember that for any journey, you can't get to where you want to go if you don't know where you are.  If your organization is heavy on using manual processes for development and deployment, and releases are infrequent and monolithic, then your DevOps transformation will necessarily include a lot of steps, and your journey will be longer.  If your organization is currently practicing Agile methodologies and the culture is one that embraces automation and collaboration, then the starting point in your journey is much further down the road, and your transformation will be less complex.

Regardless of where you begin, it's important to internalize the analogy that a DevOps transformation is a journey.  "Adopting DevOps is not a ‘one-and-done' project.  It is adopting a mindset, a culture," says Sanjeev, "It is a commitment to a journey of continuous improvement by adopting a set of capabilities and practices that are based on Lean principles."  That journey consists of a number of steps, or smaller transformations that each will serve to improve the flow of value through your develop/test/deploy process, and bring benefits to the business at each successive stage.

But what are those steps an organization must undertake in order to adopt DevOps?  That is a complex question, and there can be many ‘right' answers for different organizations, as long as those answers are grounded in the proper fundamentals.  The answer that Sanjeev and IBM advocate for is that a transformation consists of six steps - "a set of six capabilities to adopt in this DevOps journey:"

  1. Continuous Business Planning
  2. Collaborative Development
  3. Continuous Testing
  4. Continuous Release and Deploy
  5. Continuous Monitoring
  6. Continuous Feedback and Optimization

The next natural question for most organizations, then, is about where to start?  For this, the analogy of a journey is once again appropriate.  According to Sanjeev, "This requires knowing ‘Point B' where you want to go - what business goals do you want DevOps to help you achieve?  And it requires knowing the ‘Point A' of your journey - where you are today - and how mature you are when it comes to practicing these capabilities today."  Two points make a line, and when you know where your points A and B are, you have the ability to chart out a path towards adoption.

To drive this home, I'd like to point out that this analogy of a DevOps journey is actually much more than just an analogy.  As an officer in the U.S. Army, I served as a battalion planner during a deployment to Iraq in 2007.  In this capacity I created plans ranging across the full spectrum of military operations, from planning actual journeys that involved moving hundreds of Soldiers and thousands of pieces of equipment over hundreds of miles, to planning both lethal and non-lethal operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

One of the tasks that I received during that year was to map out my battalion's campaign plan - essentially the transformation strategy that would cover our entire 15-month deployment, and consisted of achieving the singular task of unseating Al Qaeda from the stronghold they had built up in Baqubah as a way to prevent their ability to influence events in the capital city of Baghdad, located about 60 miles to the southwest.  If it makes you feel any better, I started out, much like you, wondering where the hell to begin in devising such a transformation strategy.  But the answer was no different than for any other operation that I had planned - it's a fundamental concept the Army calls ‘backwards planning,' which is almost exactly what Sanjeev is advocating for in determining both your end point and starting point.

In backwards planning, you first start with the destination - what is to be achieved in this operation?  To describe these goals, you first paint a vision of what that desired endstate looks like.  How will we be organized at this endstate; where will we be relative to the enemy; what does our composition and strength look like; what is our posture regarding expectations of next events?  Painting this picture of the desired endstate helps you to articulate the goals, and those tasks which are absolutely necessary to accomplish in order to achieve that endstate.  Then you work backwards in time and space.  If these three tasks must be accomplished in order to achieve the desired endstate, then what must we do in order to successfully complete those tasks?  And so on and so forth, until you arrive at the point you're at today.  By first focusing on the destination, you end up creating a realistic, tangible, and executable plan that gets you from point A to point B.

And that's what Sanjeev and IBM advocate for their clients embarking on a DevOps journey:

"At IBM, we help our customers get started by conducting a ‘DevOps pipeline Value Steam Mapping workshop'. This strategic workshop is a 1-day (usually 6 hour) executive workshop designed to enable IBM to understand your business and IT goals (Point B) and to help you identify gaps in your existing DevOps capabilities (Point A) that IBM can help you address. We identify ‘Point A' by mapping out your end-to-end Application Delivery pipeline, and identifying areas of inefficiencies in the pipeline."

If you're headed to IBM InterConnect next week, Sanjeev ends his article by inviting you to attend a condensed version of these workshops during the conference, which are 2-hr. sessions where you'll work with IBM DevOps SMEs to "map out your application delivery pipeline and identify your key ‘bottlenecks' or inefficiencies."  Once you're done with one of those sessions, stop by the Datical booth (# 658) and we'll show you how you can integrate your database deployments into your Continuous Delivery pipeline!

More Stories By Rex Morrow

Rex is the Marketing Director at Datical, a venture-backed software company whose solution, Datical DB, manages and simplifies database schema change management in support of high velocity application releases. Prior to Datical, Rex co-founded Texas Venture Labs, a startup accelerator at the University of Texas, and received his MBA from the McCombs School of Business. Before graduate school, Rex served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, and was awarded two bronze stars during combat deployments in Iraq.

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