Perceived Challenges to Implementing DevOps and Their Solutions  

This blog post is an excerpt of a report, Accelerating DevOps in the Public Sector, developed in partnership with Red Hat. To download the full report, head here.

If DevOps is so valuable, why aren’t government agencies at all levels wholeheartedly embracing it? There are a few perceived challenges that agencies face related to DevOps, most notably around culture, but with the right approaches and leadership buy-in, these challenges can be overcome.

Challenge 1: Lack of Funding

First, funding is a major challenge with which all agencies must grapple. Adequate funding in the government is always a point of contention, and in many cases budgets are constant, or shrinking. There’s a perception that necessary resources simply aren’t available, and this must be considered when implementing DevOps. After all, technology is expensive and can be seen as a strain on an agency’s already tight resources. Professionals often view innovative IT management approaches as resource- draining.

Solution 1: Make the Case That it Saves Costs in the Long-Run

But years of data and research now prove conclusively that adoption of DevOps helps organizations save money through improved efficiency. In terms of managing

IT budgets, DevOps is ultimately the way to go, and delaying a move to DevOps creates technical debt, which costs more to address in the long run.

Challenge 2: Limitations of Traditional IT Systems

The government must also work within the confines of legacy IT systems that need upgrading, and an inability to make the optimal modernizations to them immediately. Again, this is because of constrained resources. These old systems take capital to upgrade. While this is almost unanimously a good idea in terms of long-term investment, it can be hard determining the upfront costs and persuading leaders to make such investments an IT budgeting priority – or to stop spending money on outdated IT.

“Agencies have made major technology investments over the years, many of which aren’t applicable in a DevOps world of rapid iteration and automation. They often feel that they must continue to use those tools until that investment has run its course,” said Eamon McCormick, Federal Manager for Emerging Technologies at Red Hat.

Solution 2: Start the Switch Now

The time for government agencies to start their DevOps adoption has arrived, and there are low-risk approaches that make it more feasible than ever.

“It’s taken some time, but we believe there is now a mandate to move toward DevOps,” said McCormick. “That’s coming from industry, open source communities, government contractors and government leadership.”

According to a leading book in the DevOps field, “Accelerate: The Science Behind DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations”: “The moral of the story, borne out in the data, is this: improvements in software delivery are possible for every team and in every company, as long as leadership provides consistent support — including time, actions, and resources — demonstrating a true commitment to improvement, and as long as team members commit themselves to the work.

It’s possible to achieve these characteristics even with packaged software and “legacy” mainframe systems — and, conversely, employing the latest whizzy microservices architecture deployed on containers is no guarantee of higher performance if you ignore these characteristics.”

Challenge 3: Switching to DevOps Would Be a Huge Cultural Shift for Governments

Most of the challenges, however, simply return to the notion of DevOps as a major cultural change. Government tends to be risk-averse because the implications of its work are so wide-reaching. As a result, it can be hard convincing decision- makers to take chances with a new approach — especially one that embraces failure as a part of the process. Changing organizational culture is extremely difficult, and takes time, patience and complete commitment.

Solution 3: Start Small and Incrementally Expand

Successful DevOps projects are proving that it must be done on a small scale initially and incrementally expanded with leaders supporting those early teams and promoting their success. It requires managers who encourage their employees and communicate with them on how the change is going. Many in government IT are afraid of change, especially if they have been in the business for a long time. Transforming IT systems is the easy part. It takes a great deal more work to reform attitudes and philosophies.

To learn more about ways to implement DevOps, read our full report here.

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