It’s no secret that digital transformation is sweeping over every industry – no matter the vertical or size of an organization. This means that every business is a technology business that must deliver software to stay relevant and successful. However, delivering software is traditionally slow, cumbersome and error prone. Why? Various teams inside an IT organization work in silos with disparate tools, processes and goals. This is why DevOps, which connects these teams, tools and processes, was introduced to solve common challenges with software delivery. Over the past decade, DevOps has solidified itself as a mainstay in enterprises around the globe to make software delivery efficient, effective and painless. However, while DevOps has solved many of the woes of technical teams, the real business value of DevOps remains untapped.
IT teams often run DevOps "science projects" – tinkering with the technical intricacies to optimize certain metrics or workflows, but customers tend not to notice or simply don't care. If customers aren't noticing 10x, 100x, 1000x improvements on the business side, then DevOps initiatives aren’t doing their job. Why might this be the case? DevOps initiatives are optimized for IT and engineering outcomes, not business outcomes, evidenced by significant occurrences of anti-patterns, such as:
- Shiny object syndrome (blindly applying tools or automation to the wrong problems)
- DevOps as a specialization (creating DevOps "teams," roles and job titles) versus nurturing a shared cultural mindset
- Done at deployment (the driving goal being to deploy to production faster) versus continuous value delivery, learning, and experimentation
- Local optimization (e.g., only building a CI/CD pipeline, automating tests, infrastructure as code, etc.) versus improving flow through the entire value stream
The cure for these anti-patterns? Value stream management (VSM). VSM is the glue that bonds the technical benefits of DevOps together with business value.
DevOps principles should be connected to the end-to-end value stream, involving everyone who plays a part in the delivery process (through planning, design, build, test, release, support), and building a culture of continuous delivery across the entire organization (across teams, departments, suppliers, tech, etc.). Successful VSM entails building a continuous delivery pipeline that tracks, integrates and provides value-based context of all activities. Most importantly, it focuses on how decisions and actions impact the business and customers alike. This allows software products and features to flow to customers with orders of magnitude higher velocity, quality and security. This is true DevOps that moves beyond CI/CD and offers real business value that is felt and seen by customers.
At the end of the day, delighting customers is critical to a DevOps transformation, but it is still critical to keep technical teams happy. Luckily, VSM is a win for everyone. For executive leadership, VSM makes work visible. For developers, VSM makes work meaningful. For the enterprise, VSM makes work valuable.
About the AuthorMore Content by Eric Robertson