Digital Transformation and DevOps

Transformation

“Transformation” has become a part of our everyday business lexicon, just like other associated words, such as “Strategy.” Over the past decade, the pace of organizational transformations has picked up due to many market driven considerations, such as changing customer demographics and their expectations, technology, startup competitors with their disruptive business models, and other factors. The journey from “on-premise” to cloud was one such transformation driven by technology and business models.

Yet our track record in successfully driving transformations to successful closures is extremely sub-optimal, in-spite of the number of transformations that have been initiated and run over the past decade. According to a McKinsey report, the success rate of transformation programs across organizations is a mere 30%, based on extensive interviews and surveys they have conducted with a wide range of organizational leaders.

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Digital Transformation and role of DevOps

The more recent transformation that many organizations have embarked upon is their digital journey, driven by customer needs and expectations of speed, agility, convenience, and overall experience. The success rate in this transformation is even lower, at around 16%, based on a Forbes article.

When you analyze the journeys of relatively successful transformations, the key elements that contribute to success are:

  1. Active Leadership Sponsorship – The “active” here refers to a more visible role of leadership in terms of lending clarity of purpose, role modeling, and setting the tone for a conducive culture.
  2. Acknowledging and working on resistance from individuals and teams in the organization by:
    1. active advocacy to excite and inspire.
    2. mentoring and coaching.
  3. Investing in systems, processes, and talent/capability that would enable change adoption.

Most organizations embarking on their Digital Transformation journey consider DevOps as one of the fundamental blocks, especially given the need for speed and agility. The elements of success outlined above are specifically mapped to the DevOps journey below:

  1. At the outset, DevOps feels and sounds like a mere technology and infrastructure initiative focusing on methodology and tools. However, understanding the scope of DevOps and mapping its impact on business (customer-related goals) is the starting point and lends clarity of purpose. An active leadership sponsor is imperative to the success of the transformation.
  2. The success of DevOps is predicated on the ability of cross-functional teams to function with autonomy. Effective collaboration—thinking triggered from within and then translated into doing—becomes the bedrock of cross-functional, autonomous teams. The initial sense of resistance slowly transitioning to compliance would need to be transformed into sustained commitment from within – this process requires mentoring and coaching.
  3. Enabling the individuals with the appropriate skills, technology, tools, and processes, and building the team with complimentary skills (along with the supporting infrastructure and automation), is a foundational factor critical to success of the DevOps initiative.

Role of a DevOps Coach

Now that we have established the factors of success (the “what” for DevOps), the next question is “who” is chartered with making all this happen and “how”?

Given the innate complexity of organization structure, underlying culture, and multiple stakeholders potentially at differing levels of alignment with the DevOps journey, the traditional model of leadership through authority would pay limited dividends. The true leaders of today lead through influencing without authority, and they build self-reliant teams. So in essence, they are focused on the following objectives:

  • enabling business outcomes by building buy-ins and active sponsorship from the wide universe of key stakeholders
  • enabling self-sufficient and self-reliant teams through active mentoring and coaching to take the ongoing transformation and change journey forward
  • enabling building a foundational culture at the organizational level to sustain the momentum and accelerate further.

The DevOps Coach is evolving as one of the leadership roles in this context, and is required to possess:

    • the core competencies related to DevOps and a deeper coaching mindset toward partnering with individuals and teams
    • the ability to influence without authority and thereby gain the confidence of the stakeholders
    • the versatility to switch between Coaching, Mentoring, Facilitation, and Consulting, depending on the situation
    • a deeper understanding for the required culture, which will enable the teams to operate with autonomy and feel empowered to move forward on this path to transformation.

The journey to becoming to a DevOps Coach therefore starts with building the above skillsets and mindsets.

DASA and DevOps

DASA – DevOps and Agile Skills Association – is an industry body founded with the charter of providing the industry practitioners with the toolsets, capabilities, roles, and practices to increase the probability of success in a DevOps transformation journey.

DASA conceptualized a comprehensive DevOps Competency framework that enables the DevOps individuals and teams to assess their current level of proficiency across these competencies.

Based on the individual’s experience profile and aspirations, DASA provides a suite of learning programs to build and enhance the required competencies for the different roles. The DASA DevOps Coach program was launched with the objective to build the requisite competencies to operate as an effective DevOps coach outlined earlier.

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Anant Krishnan

Chief Consultant & Advisor, Yayati Consulting LLP

Anant has spent a good part of the past decade actively mentoring and coaching people at mid and senior Executive levels – to anchor around…