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Mapping Your Agency’s DevOps Journey

No two transformational journeys are alike, whether it’s the underlying technologies supporting them or the personnel driving the decision-making.

The journey to adopt DevOps is much the same way. There isn’t a hard and fast rule that guides every implementation because no two agencies or missions are the same. Although there are best practices agencies should embrace to make DevOps successful, think of DevOps as a philosophy — not a standard — that involves continuous collaboration among software developers and operations teams.

“You need to take the agile philosophy behind DevOps and mold it to your own team or agency culture. Then, find out what works best for you,” said Ken Urban, Senior Solutions Engineer at Atlassian. The enterprise software company develops collaborative solutions for software developers, project managers and knowledge managers.

In an interview with GovLoop, Urban shared core tenets that agencies should consider when embarking on a DevOps transformation, as well as common pitfalls to look out for.

His first piece of advice: Do your homework. As elementary as that might sound, you must first understand what is broken and what needs to be changed before you get started.

“Maybe the answer to that question is nothing is broken, and everything is working as it should,” said Urban, “but there’s probably something that you want to improve upon.”

Next, DevOps is a team sport. Take time to arm yourself with examples of teams that are executing DevOps with success. Preferably, these teams should be organizationally similar to yours. Urban, who previously ran a large software development team in the Defense Department, recommends that agencies start small before looking to scale DevOps transformation across multiple teams.

“For example, you might want to get the operations team involved in the release process,” Urban said. “Or maybe give the development team visibility into the process for responding to outages, so they can see the pain that operations has on a daily basis. Either way, the point is to slowly change your culture to a desired end state.”

The top barrier to DevOps adoption is often not the technology, but the people. DevOps changes work patterns. So it’s imperative that you don’t force it. Spend time communicating the benefits, show the results and be transparent about challenges.

Another potential pitfall Urban highlighted was the lack of planning around standardizing on DevOps methodologies and toolsets before scaling. Again, don’t force these decisions. The easiest solution is to take what works for you, including policies and tools, and make them available for use across your agency.

“Be as transparent as you can be while still respecting good security practices,” Urban said, noting examples of commonly used Atlassian DevOps tools, such as JIRA and Confluence, that agencies use to fuel teamwork and enhance transparency.

Atlassian also runs an immersive DevOps simulator to help teams understand the cultural impact of DevOps and to develop a common shared language.

Ultimately, Urban said, transformational change is an ongoing effort.

TAKEAWAY: DevOps is not a standard or a one-size-fits-all approach to software development and operations. Success involves molding the philosophy of DevOps to fit the needs of your team and the culture of your agency.

This article is from GovLoop’s recent guide “Your Guide to DevOps in Government Today.” Download the full guide here.

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