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Managing Change When Your Project Has No End

Most change management is about planning for a big event, a big “bang.” That bang might be an office move, merging with another division, a new system cut over, or many other things. But, how do you manage change when it’s ongoing? That’s the challenge of DevOps.

How DevOps Is Different From Other Technology Projects

DevOps is about streamlining teams and processes while making software development and maintenance faster and more secure by improving automation. It’s shifting from big releases to much more frequent updates and fixes. It’s a continuous process of improvement. Traditional change management methods are still useful. However, there are a couple of unique qualities of DevOps you need to keep in mind no matter where you are on your DevOps journey.

Unique Qualities of Change Management on Your DevOps Project

  • Have a ready answer when executive leadership sighs and asks, “When is this going to be done?” The answer is never! However, that tends not to go over very well. Instead, describe when the program or business side of your organization will see the benefits of what you’re currently working on. Then describe the next logical step toward realizing those benefits.
  • Identify stakeholder groups. One of the core components of traditional change management is identifying stakeholder groups and building outreach and engagement activities around them. Typically, stakeholder groups are identified by function and level within the organization — executives, the project team, other IT employees, the business, etc. When it comes to the cutting-edge technologies and approaches that characterize DevOps, these lines tend to blur. People’s mind-sets, morale, drive, and comfort level with new technology are more important than title and role. People with a growth mind-set who feel positively about the organization and are driven to improve will be early adopters and champions. They’ll come from many different places on the organization chart. You have to think creatively about how to identify and target key groups.
  • Nail your metrics. Because your DevOps initiatives are new, you won’t have the data you want. That shouldn’t stop you from capturing and reporting on what you have. Simultaneously, you should be putting plans in place for how you’re going to collect and use the information you will have in the future. Too often, DevOps teams have difficulties describing their impact because they never baselined how long processes took before they started their work. So, there’s a lot of guessing. Estimations and extrapolations are okay as long as you’re clear that that’s what you’re reporting. Using the data you have now is the best way to 1) make that data better and 2) identify and prioritize what you’ll do with the data you’ll have in the future.
  • Lastly, celebrate little “bangs.” Continuous change is exciting and can be draining. Celebrating small wins as they happen (ideally weekly) can help keep your team’s motivation up.

DevOps means continuous change, and this change must be managed differently than traditional IT initiatives. Understanding and planning for ongoing engagement and encouragement can help keep your team’s motivation high and gain senior leadership’s support.

Robin Camarote is a communications strategy consultant, meeting facilitator, and writer with Wheelhouse Group. She is intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. She writes about how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow. She lives with her husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia. You can read her posts here.

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