Operations professionals live in a wind tunnel. If you can imagine one of those game show glass boxes, where a contestant stands inside, the door shuts, and money blows around in a whirlwind, you’ve got a good idea of what Operations feels like much of the time. While you’re trying to grab one technology, another has forced itself across your eyes demanding attention.
The incredible growth of an industry that didn’t really even exist fifteen years ago has provided us with endless opportunity and innovations. It’s also required us to be on the forefront of many new technologies in a way other professions aren’t. The constant drive towards the next technology, the next platform, and the next idea has stratified our organizations, creating specializations in areas like networking, storage, security, data sciences, and a myriad of other functions that challenge our ability to work with our colleagues as a cohesive team.
As large enterprises have continued to adopt Agile practices, we see a lot of operations organizations in these enterprises struggle to keep up with new requirements. Complexity has forced specialization in order to maintain the quality of individual services at larger scales. The organizational response to specialization is to break operational organizations up by function, dividing big teams into small teams, and erecting complex workflows to manage costs and chargebacks. The organizational chart grows more branches, the leaves don’t know each other well, and work is abstracted to ticket queues.
DevOps may feel fuzzy to many of us; it is not a tool we can deploy or a bug we can fix. However, DevOps, as a response to organizational practice that has swung too far from center, is a good place to start really looking at your organization. It’s a springboard for challenging assumptions, for asking questions, and for incentivizing your colleagues and teammates to improve processes that were implemented with best intentions in a different time.
Your organization exists in its current form for any number of reasons, and changing that form, and the way people work, is an arduous undertaking. It takes time, patience, and influence to foster an environment in which people can truly work alongside one another to accomplish a shared goal. We are required in most cases to rewrite much of our current playbook for managing large technical organizations. I’ve tried to outline in this article some practices to help you on your DevOps journey. I’ve also tried to give you some things to think about when you are investigating the inner workings of your organization. It’s dangerous to go alone, so please take this.