Devops adopters: Your trust is rewarded

Devops can be used to foster not just rapid innovation inside a company, but also trust and cooperation

Devops, the art and science of merging IT's development and operations cultures, has been widely touted as a way to boost a company's agility. But workers in companies that practice devops say it's also a way for organizations to build and demonstrate a high degree of internal trust.

Puppet Labs' 2014 State of Devops Report was drawn from 9,200 people in 110 countries -- twice as large a respondent base as the previous survey. Like that previous survey, it concludes that a positive, collaborative, and rewarding corporate culture is a key way to implement devops and make it pay off in strong IT performance.

The biggest proportions of respondents were in "technology" (22.7 percent) or "Web software" (10.9 percent) companies, with employee bases that ranged from 20 to 99 (17.1 percent), 100 to 499 (21.8 percent), and 500 to 9,999 (26.8 percent).

More telling, though, was how the respondents identified themselves in terms of their departments and teams -- a useful insight since devops is typically depicted as the bridge between developers and IT. Around 30 percent classified themselves as "IT ops," with 28 percent as "developers/engineers" and 16 percent as actual "devops."

Self-identified devops folks far more readily say they're using devops practices (92 percent for that group) than all the different groups of users surveyed (57 percent overall), though it isn't clear if the devops groups are doing anything with those practices that sets them apart. The report says a company with an explicitly designated devops group "is 50 percent more likely to be a company with high IT performance."

What counts as "high IT performance"? For this, Puppet Labs used three metrics: deployment frequency, lead time for changes, and mean time to recover from failure. With each of those, Puppet Labs singled out a set of top devops practices associated with each, such as continuous delivery as a way to bolster deployment frequency or using version control and automated testing to cut down on lead time for changes.

IT workers had a lot to say about the actual culture -- the organization, the employees -- that creates and reinforces the kinds of practices that go into a devops-friendly workplace. Proactivity -- being agile in the ways described above -- was seen as a big component of such a workplace, but another theme was a high degree of trust among all parties. "It's not dev versus ops," the report states, "it's dev plus ops."

In fact, many of the best qualities of a performance-oriented company can be mapped directly to various practices in devops. Postmortems are a good example. If something fails, the emphasis shouldn't be on assigning blame, but rather trying to understand more about what happened. Ditto the acceptance of novelty, where new things are given a chance to flourish, albeit in controlled ways.

Devops also leads to better job satisfaction. People who can do their jobs more freely feel more fulfilled and waste less time fighting the system to get what they need to do their work in the first place.

At times, all this hews to the idea that devops is about how business should be run, though there's room for skepticism (as InfoWorld's Eric Knorr noted when devops first started making waves three years back). But much of this is also an echo of what Sven Gerjets (senior vice president of information technology for DirecTV) has said about devops as a "leadership thing," rather than a technology or a specific internal practice. To that end, the advice Puppet Labs offers in the report's conclusions are aimed at managers and practitioners alike.

This story, "Devops adopters: Your trust is rewarded," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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