When software development professionals discuss DevOps, there are often three main conversations that form around people, processes, and technology. These three concepts speak to the heart of DevOps.
The “people” topic focuses on building a healthy culture that supports increased collaboration and shared responsibility. When discussing processes, the conversation tends to lean towards how efficient we can make a particular workflow. The technology aspect of DevOps is an ever-changing conversation ranging from modernization, security vulnerabilities, quality assurance, automation, and many other factors in software development. We have these conversations to determine what works and what doesn’t. We embrace these conversations as part of the valuable feedback cycles that DevOps creates so that we can learn how to improve our everyday responsibilities.
For organizations that have already started on their DevOps journey, these conversations are part of everyday life. Several meetings take place throughout the week, from retrospectives to planning meetings, all focused on helping the organization as a whole learn from their previous actions and make better plans. These meetings are a great way to help different parts of the organization share their intentions, collaborate more effectively, and provide a better understanding for all of the moving parts necessary to release quality software. The one drawback to these types of meetings is that they are largely based on personal experiences. Everyone participating in the conversation brings their own perspective, their own data to help make their point, and (perhaps most importantly) their own feelings. This makes getting everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals very challenging. It can also create divisions within the workplace if one part of the organization has competing priorities than the rest of the group.
Value Stream Management (VSM) has been positioned as a DevOps practice that can help solve many of the challenges that come from these ongoing discussions. Within the basic concepts on VSM, organizations get a better understanding of all of the steps necessary to bring a feature to market from idea all the way to delivery. VSM is rooted in the concepts of mapping your organizational processes. This involves working with all major contributing business units (design, development, product management, release engineers, quality assurance, security, etc) to construct an honest representation of how the business operates today, again, with the goal of finding areas for improvement. The mapping exercise is a great way to holistically look at the entire process, but it lacks one key element, and that’s data.
By collecting and analyzing the data that is produced by a value stream, we hold the key that can unlock the mysteries of the age-old questions every team faces. Where can we improve? What’s working? What’s not? The data itself can serve as a flashlight, shining useful insights into how an organization actually operates day–to–day. This means we can shift the conversations from being reactive to proactive. Reactive conversations are spent mostly getting everyone up to speed on understanding the problem, what caused the problem, and then finally discussing solutions to the problem. Proactive conversations take place when a group can see what is happening in real time. Real–time data allows for anticipating problems and putting a solution in place before the pain becomes real. Data-driven conversations allow us to get to the problem solving more quickly because it is clear to everyone involved where the problem is, and more importantly, why it is a problem.
In this blog series, I will take a look at the important role data plays within an organization. I will specifically focus on the core “areas of impact” and how data can influence the key DevOps conversations around:
- People: Humanizing DevOps Through Data
- Processes: Tracking and Planning with Data
- Technology: Data-Driven Business Agility
Driving your DevOps initiatives based on data will ultimately help you grow a more empathetic DevOps organization, one where the individual contributors’ efforts are clearly aligned to business goals; one where product managers are easily able to communicate to stakeholders and customers what is planned for delivery, what is at risk, what might need to be left behind. Bringing data to the forefront of your DevOps goals will help your organization as a whole, better manage risk, cost, and revenue, business factors that all organizations care about. Please join us over the next couple of weeks as we take a deeper look at the many ways Data-Driven DevOps and Value Stream Management can help you change the DevOps conversation at your organization so that you can start to see effective change.