5 dysfunctional IT relationships -- and how to repair them

Sys admins are from Mars, developers are from Venus, and legal is from hell -- here's how to heal friction among IT factions

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Dysfunctional IT relationship No. 4: Dev vs. ops
The development team is driving us crazy. It's operations' job to keep the servers humming, fight off hackers, keep our systems secure and our IP from leaking out, and manage third-party services -- all while keeping the lid on costs. But all dev can do is complain we aren't nimble and don't implement changes rapidly enough for their liking. Don't they realize we have a company to run?
— Operating under pressure

Large organizations need both their development and operations teams working in sync if they want to survive in a rapidly changing business environment. The problem is that their core functions are fundamentally at odds, notes Winston Damarillo, CEO and co-founder of Morphlabs, a provider of converged infrastructure solutions for enterprises.

"The IT operations team's goal is to maintain the status quo, while the development team seeks to disrupt it," he says. "There's intense pressure on dev to deliver innovative products, services, and tools to customers. At the same time, ops has to grapple with maintaining security and protecting intellectual property while keeping all the systems running. That tends to limit the sometimes rapid and ungoverned changes sought by dev."

Sometimes it seems like dev and ops are speaking two different languages, says Todd Olson, VP of products for Rally Software, an agile project management and coaching firm.

"The same words can mean different things to them," he says. "The ops guy is all about reducing risk, the dev team wants to produce as much stuff as possible. They have different interests in mind."

One solution is for your organization to join the devops movement, combining the warring factions into a single team where each member has both development and operations responsibilities, says Olson. That may require significant cultural change throughout the organization, as well as overhauling legacy structures such as separate management teams and budgets for each group.

The mismatch between dev's need for speed and ops' need for control has led a lot of development teams to opt for public clouds, says Brett Adam, CTO at rPath, an enabler of PaaS (platform as a service) for enterprises and service providers. "While this provides the agility dev needs, it often does so as an end run around the ops team."  

"All of the velocity gains we've made on the dev side won't translate to business value until the same velocity is achieved on the ops side," says Adam. "Enterprises need both speed and control, enabling developers to rapidly provision what they need while also satisfying IT's need for governance. A private PaaS solution can align both of their interests."

Enterprises operating their own private clouds should consider a converged infrastructure, which could allow the dev team to spin up their own virtual machines as needed for building and testing code, says Damarillo. That would give them the ability to rapidly deploy in real-world conditions while still ensuring the safety and uptime ops demands.

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