As in many industries, IT often suffers from a disconnect between the people who are actually running the business (operations) and those working to disrupt business as usual with new software products (development). While some companies have opted to fix the disconnect via the concept of DevOps, which is essentially a bringing together of the two disparate functions for a more efficient organization.
Forrester Research defines DevOps as the “processes, methods, and systems for communication, collaboration, and integration among the IT functions responsible for application development, infrastructure and operations, and quality assurance.” According to Forrester, when these processes come together effectively, they produce better and more timely software products and services.
For many companies, though, the question isn’t necessarily whether DevOps is a good idea, but more about how to go about improving collaboration between the disparate functions. Often, with so many ingrained behaviors and perceptions of the “other” side and how things should be done, fostering collaboration is a challenge. However, with a few changes to how either side views collaboration and the integration of some new tools and procedures, collaboration is not only possible, but likely to help the business grow and thrive.
Implement Collaboration Software
Rarely do web development folks and operations folks work in close physical proximity to each other. Most of their communication takes place via phone, email, or in meetings, in which one group or the other reports on their activities and problems are ironed out as needed. However, this isn’t always the most expedient or effective way to work together. By implementing software and systems to support collaboration, which might include real-time instant message, the ability to work on files together in real time, and other features, both teams can share information and discuss projects as-needed, without waiting for a response – or worse, entering a meeting with an “us vs. them” mindset.
Implement a Peer Review Process
Many web developers are used to working on their own, identifying and fixing buggy code or other issues on their own or one-on-one with another developer or manager. This can create a defensive posture when faced with feedback from outside of the web development department, but that outside feedback is vital to the success of any DevOps collaboration. Create a culture that values a process of feedback, constructive criticism, refinement, and revision, in which developers must be able to explain (or defend) their ideas – and operations theirs – to ensure the best possible product.
One major reason for disconnect between development and operations is a lack of communication. Often, developers and IT assume that their success is obvious – when the product works, it’s successful. There are also many misconceptions about what developers actually do; as a result, operations may develop policies or procedures or make requests that seem unreasonable or contradictory to the success of IT. To overcome this, developers need to become more comfortable with communicating about their successes outside of their own groups, to not get more exposure for their projects but to also improve buy-in and get more collaboration and support.
Make IT a Part of the Business’ Mission
It’s very common for businesses to try and make IT align with the business, and to work within goals that were established without much consideration to what IT actually does. To improve collaboration, it’s important to begin recognizing IT as a strategic partner, and developers as the people who actually make the business work.
This means explicitly defining how IT fits into the business’ goals, and incorporating that definition into the business’ mission statement. When companies stop viewing developers as simply a department within the business and instead view them as an integral part of the business’s overall function, then collaboration becomes a greater priority, and a vital contributor to the business’s success.
Collaboration between development and operations is a is important, but all too many businesses treat it as an afterthought, or a slogan that doesn’t have any true meaning in the day-to-day operations of the business. With a renewed focus on collaboration, though, and by providing the right tools to make collaboration easy, it can actually become a reality for any business.