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DevOps: The Key to Solving Technical Debt

If you haven’t heard of technical debt, you should – it can leave your agency constantly behind the times.

Technical debt is the amount of time agencies cling to technology that isn’t current, putting them increasingly behind cutting-edge tools.

According to Chief Information Officer (CIO) Barry Condrey, Chesterfield County, Virginia, is proof agencies can manage their technical debt using an increasingly common technology strategy.

“All governments deal with technical debt,” he said on Wednesday during GovLoop’s latest virtual summit. “It’s like fiscal debt, but with technology. It constrains our options.”

Fortunately, agencies at every level can embrace DevOps as their guiding philosophy for software development. DevOps combines development and IT operations into one approach for delivering software products and services.

Ultimately, DevOps can shorten development lifecycles while continuously providing high-quality software.

“We are always focused on how to get the best value to customers the faster,” Condrey said of Chesterfield County.

Andrew Leigh is Senior Vice President, Marketing and Alliances, at Copado, a DevOps platform provider. According to Leigh, DevOps can help agencies tackle crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic with more agility.

“They’re looking for speed and quality,” he said of agencies practicing DevOps. “With COVID-19, they need to deliver even faster.”

However, Condrey cautioned agencies against believing they can adopt DevOps overnight. According to Condrey, DevOps is an ongoing state of mind.

“This is really not a technology problem – it is a cultural problem,” he said. “Unless you want a revolution, you might need to start slowly and incrementally.”

Bill Steele is Senior Program Architect at Salesforce, Inc., a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) services provider. For the last three years, Steele said he has collaborated with the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) on its DevOps efforts. According to Steele, agencies such as VA can dramatically improve their DevOps with automation.

Automation involves machines performing simple, manual processes with little to no human involvement.

“We would do 500 to 600 deployments every month,” Steele said of VA’s development lifecycles. “We had come a long way from manually touching every one of these packages. But that is still a heavy lift.”

So how do agencies trade their older, more siloed software development practices for DevOps? According to Condrey, the answer is commitment, collaboration and leadership.

“DevOps requires time, perseverance and patience,” he said. “You have to set goals. You have to set incremental steps to get there.”

Condrey added discussing new cultural practices, thinking creatively and becoming more comfortable with change can gradually integrate DevOps at agencies.

So how does DevOps overcome technical debt? Once it is fully up and running, DevOps can keep agencies continuously up to date on the latest and greatest developments involving their software.

Over time, agencies using DevOps to its full behind will rarely fall behind the most exciting transformations to their technology.

“I’m hoping we can continue to use this approach to satisfy our technical debt,” Condrey said of Chesterfield County.

Don’t miss out on other virtual learning opportunities. Pre-register for GovLoop’s remaining 2020 virtual summits today.

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