You’re probably tired of hearing it, but I’m going to say it again – this was a weird year. No industry was exempt from changes brought on by the pandemic, software development included. So, what lessons can we take from this “unprecedented” year, and how will 2021 look different? I asked our DevOps experts to reflect on the past year and make predictions for the next. Keep reading to see what they had to say, and share your own thoughts in the comments.
What were the biggest lessons for DevOps professionals in the past year?
Steve Boone, Head of HCL Software DevOps Product Management: Continuous governance and compliance are a must-have for any DevOps organization that is struggling to keep moving at agile speeds while adhering to the best security and quality practices and trying to please the barrage of auditors that regulated businesses must address.
Nick Mathison, Development Manager and Technical Product Manager for HCL Accelerate: COVID-19 put to the test how well value stream stakeholders comprehended their own value stream. Gone are the days where you overhear discussions that clue you in to deliverables or tap your senior developer’s shoulder for advice or help. Across the value steam, stakeholders realized there were serious gaps in visibility, processes, and documentation that need to be addressed quickly.
Hayden Schmackpfeffer, HCL Launch Product Manager: I would say that the biggest lesson for DevOps professionals in the past year was just a re-affirmation of the importance of a mature DevOps toolchain. HCL Launch Dev has a fully flushed out CI/CD pipeline that we also closely monitor with HCL Accelerate, and since we had everything in place and were familiar with all our tools, I feel like we mitigated most of the impact from the chaotic work-from-home switch.
Bryant Schuck, HCL Accelerate Product Manager: Everything is running fine until a pandemic hits! The payoff for past transformations showed who was (unknowingly) prepared due to adopting DevOps.
Al Wagner, DevOps Transformation Advisor: For many, 2020 will be forever known as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic that disrupted industries all over the world. And as the world runs on software, very quickly technology companies and DevOps professionals had to get out of the box bringing new tech to market and finding new ways to work. For tech companies, numerous innovative collaboration solutions flooded the market, making many of them the darlings of Wall Street. For individuals, it meant a paradigm shift in our daily routines. Having said that, I believe the biggest lessons learned are related to how we interacted with each other and (believe it or not) there were some positives which came out of this mess. Working remotely away from friends and co-workers, setting up home offices, finding childcare, having concern for immediate and extended family members, and the list goes on resulted in improvements for how we interacted as stress levels were at a peak. So, the biggest lessons for myself, and I believe are shared by others, was developing a new level of empathy for my teammates and never again taking for granted the ability to collaborate face-to-face. The world we knew may never return but how we treat each other – personally and professionally – seems to have improved.
Brian Muskoff, Director of DevOps Product Development and Strategy: 2020 proved that we can never forecast exactly what lies ahead but by creating a culture that embraces business agility, we can be prepared to quickly adapt to any situation. This year also taught us that the mute button is one of the most important inventions in human history
Chris Nowak, Director of DevOps Advisory & Adoption: There is one big lesson for DevOps professionals from 2020 – change is always happening, people fear change, and empathy (trust) is how you manage through change together.
2020 brought with it a large disruption in our ways of working. Millions of professionals in all industries were forced to move from high-touch, close proximity interactions to virtual collaboration. This impacted our ability to maintain or strengthen existing relationships and create new relationships.
All success is the result of the relationships that people and teams build with each other, and all relationships are built on trust. When people and teams trust each other, they can weather any change together and face fears together. When they don’t, teams and business relationships are ineffective and often dysfunctional and damaging. 2020 made all of us figure out new ways to build trust under chaotic circumstances. The lesson of 2020 for anyone involved in DevOps (or any business for that matter) is that relationships, trust, empathy and culture are the keys to achieving success in your business outcomes and to strengthening organizational resiliency.
We often speak about DevOps as being CALM – Culture, Automation, Lean Process and Measures. Culture is where we find personal actions of behaviors, trust, sharing, collaboration, and empathy. These qualities ultimately make or break your culture, your business relationships, and your success. These qualities are the core of DevOps. Each of us has a say in our cultures and in our businesses by how we act and relate to each other on a daily basis. Be the change you want to see in the world.
What changes, cultural shifts, trends, or innovations do you predict for DevOps in 2021?
Steve Boone: My hope is that 2021 will be the year that companies start to improve their own internal processes by leveraging the data that is produced in their organizations. The goal should be to shift from a reactive DevOps organization to a proactive DevOps organization that can pivot on a dime with the needs of the business.
Nick Mathison: Fortunately, many Agile-focused companies still performed successfully while working from home when the documentation and process problems are solved. However, communication styles have changed and the process and notification systems along with it. I predict a surge in demand in 2021 for tools that can provide visibility and accountability where process and documentation cannot.
Bryant Schuck: Visibility and data will be critical due to companies moving away from hallway conversations and to remote work.
Al Wagner: As value stream mapping and value stream management (VSM) becomes more mainstream, I suspect business will become more forward looking with their expectations around VSM. Current trends show that companies are looking initially at analyzing current state and making immediate technical improvements to optimize the flow of ideas to the consumer measuring trends around improvement. Looking ahead, I suspect organizations will focus more on “beginning with the end in mind” (to borrow from Covey) drawing a line in the sand and plotting a course of action to achieve the prize. While value stream mapping will always provide a reflection of current state, the use of capability mapping will become more prominent in identifying gaps and actions to be taken in order to achieve the business vision while continuing to measure – not just measuring the decrease in lead time or cycle time but also measuring progress to a defined goal. Again, DevOps is about solving a business problem yet many immediately look to technology and tools. Let’s not forget about people and process. Capability mapping will touch on all 3 pillars – people, process and tools – and it will take improvement around all three to deliver on tomorrow’s business objectives.
Brian Muskoff: Despite our ability to successfully shift to a remote work model during the pandemic, long-term we’ll return to the office albeit in a more flexible hybrid model to improve employee productivity and morale and organizational alignment and culture.
What New Year’s Resolution should every development professional make for 2021?
Steve Boone: If you are in the business of making software, you should commit part of your time in 2021 to making sure you understand all of the people and roles necessary to deliver quality, customer-pleasing software. If you are a developer, learn the rest of the business. Talk to product managers, talk to sellers, talk to the test engineers, talk to your SRE’s, talk to your security team. Learn about their responsibilities. Learn what matters to them. Become a more well-rounded individual. The more you know about the rest of the business, the easier it is to collaborate with these groups and work together.
Nick Mathison: Every development professional should look for proactive opportunities in their value stream. Wait time is an absolute detriment to lead and cycle times, so identifying stages where you can get the important information earlier will help generate faster decision making. This idea can manifest itself into automatically triggering a deployment based on a set gating criteria or simply manually reviewing new customer requests on a bi-weekly basis. Being proactive has the immediate benefit of eliminating wait times and then minimizing blindsided requests in the future. Please realize, not everything needs to be automated and process changes might be quicker.
Bryant Schuck: Challenge yourself to share knowledge with the community, no matter what level you’re at in your career. You might have the direction or idea that sparks something great! Write that blog. Record that video. Heck, it’s 2021, make a TikTok!
Al Wagner: Keep an open mind, share expertise, and continually seek knowledge. Tech is moving so fast, it is hard to keep up with the next greatest thing – whatever that might be. However, we owe it to ourselves, as IT professionals, to openly engage in dialogue, continue to ask questions, share our expertise, listen to what others are saying, and learn from our and others’ mistakes. For me, IT is a massive community of professionals sharing a common mission of improving technology and practices to help and improve each other – a community of people who want to do the best they can and crave knowledge to be the best they can. Let’s work together and make it happen!
Brian Muskoff: Make friends with your CISO. Our world now runs on software and cyberattacks are more prevalent than ever. Investing in making your software security practices visible, compliant, and timely will not only protect your organization and customers, but will enable your team to deliver the value and results the business expects.
Chris Nowak: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood. – Stephen Covey, Habit #5
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi