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Thought Leadership
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September 10, 2020
DevOps: Driving Innovation With Old Habits
Dinesh Venugopal
President – Mphasis Direct and Digital

This article was originally published on, authored by Dinesh Venugopal, President – Mphasis Direct and Digital.

When software development and IT operations merge and work in a state of harmony, they create a flow that we call continuous product delivery. Ideal for project managers, this flow is the elixir to innovation and enables the agility needed to respond to changing market requirements. It also creates currents of speed, proactiveness and integration within enterprises. However, asynchronous code updates, inadequate IT infrastructure, siloed functioning and inefficient processes can hinder this flow.

In 2009, Patrick Debois and Andrew Clay Shafer devised a framework to break such barriers and coined it “DevOps.” Over the last decade, DevOps has garnered many followers and fans, including myself. Product managers worldwide rely on DevOps to enhance performance, accelerate time to market and innovate with agility. DevOps is more critical today than ever before—when nature mandates a new order of remote working, product managers must rely on DevOps to catalyze innovation and sustain continuous product deployments and updates.

Yet, not all enterprises that have adopted DevOps have unearthed innovation like that of Dyson, which created a new type of ventilator in a mere 10 days[1] to help the UK government scale COVID-19 treatments. Nor have they been able to match the frontrunners of innovation such as Google and Amazon that can deploy code thousands of times per day, compared to low performers that deploy code only about four times per day[2]. The obvious question on everyone’s mind is, “What are these heroic innovators doing differently with DevOps?”


Driving Success Through DevOps

While business executives are aware that implementing DevOps drives business innovation[3], most are not aware of the old habits that remain, causing unnecessary hiccups within the application cycle and business transformation. As the way forward, organizations must tweak their approach to DevOps to be able to reap more significant benefits of business innovation.

They must:

Ensure speed does not outpace stability

Today’s digital-first world has swept through every enterprise. However, to keep up with the rapid dynamics of the digital tide, enterprises need to weed out monolithic architectures and manual processes to turbocharge software development and deployment. Automating the deployment process with the help of microservices and cloud can help enterprises gain speed in software deployments and swim the tide of customer experiences. Speaking from experience, this is a privilege that has allowed me to witness how DevOps practices have enabled enterprises to crunch deployment times from weeks and days to just a few minutes[4].

Needless to say, innovation depends on speed: The faster an enterprise deploys a novel solution, the higher its chance to claim the prize of innovation.

A word of caution here: Many enterprises that have neglected quality and stability while accelerating speed drown in a vortex of defects often. When pushing out a product or an application 30 times faster than the traditional model, enterprises must consider its stability, too. Cloud infrastructure plays a vital role in helping enterprises achieve both stability and speed. On-demand self-service, networks that cater to multiple devices, high scalability and analytics are some of the primary advantages that enable enterprises to deploy faster without impacting the core[5].

Losing stability for the sake of speed can cause organizations to regress instead of leaping forward. In recent times, British Airways has been in the news for repeated issues in its IT infrastructure’s stability. It has had to cancel several flights and inconvenience passengers because software upgrades and incidents have caused its infrastructure to fail[6]. Enterprises must consider these four metrics—lead time for changes, deployment frequency, time to restore service and change failure rate—to receive the value of their DevOps investment.

Make security equal to agility

The pandemic-driven remote working has seen the video communication solutions provider Zoom soar to 300 million active monthly users last month. The brand showed great agility in meeting the surge in demand but became vulnerable to cyberattacks—500,000 Zoom passwords were available for sale in the dark web’s crime forums[7] last month. This is an excellent example of how security is usually an afterthought when compared to agility; not prioritizing security in the DevOps cycle can place teams and their organizations at significant risk, creating vulnerabilities and exposing organizations to bad actors.

In my experience, putting security checks in place early in the DevOps process can help enterprises shift left more effectively. As a first step, security and development teams need to communicate better through the continuous delivery flow. Security teams need to play more proactive roles in foreseeing risks in innovative solutions and routine software updates. Leaving security for the last will only force organizations to be reactive versus proactive.

Build collaboration, not silos

Gartner predicts that through 2022, 75% of DevOps initiatives will fail to meet expectations[8] due to issues around organizational learning and change. DevOps is a process that provides tools but it is also a philosophy that promotes collaboration among teams in software development. It catalyzes an ecosystem that encourages high collaboration and information-sharing. In a DevOps culture, failure is not shot down but leads to inquiry that drives solutions. Seamless information flow is the critical outcome of a DevOps-driven organization. Proper information flow is timely, answers questions and is understandable while needing the support of tools and technologies to drive success.

The General Motors Freemont Assembly line has been a great case study of how poor workforce culture can cause an enterprise to shut down. As one of the largest automobile factories in the United States, the manufacturer had to shut shop in 1982 due to rising losses attributed to an unruly workforce that was protected by a strong union. Within the next two years, the same factory was re-opened in collaboration with Toyota Motors, and it was called NUMMI.

NUMMI hired up to 85% of the old workforce of GM’s Freemont assembly. The difference was the Toyota culture–one that focused on learning and improvement and set a framework of how leadership interacted with and inspired teams. This change was fundamental in driving success for NUMMI[9], which reduced the time to manufacture a car to 20.8 hours in 1986—a drastic improvement over 43.1 hours in 1978.

At a time when we are witnessing unprecedented disruptions to supply chains, manufacturing and employment, enterprises need to deep dive into functioning to explore new opportunities for cost-efficiency, greater productivity and innovation. DevOps can help achieve these and build the foundations for continuous innovation. Investments in automation, cloud and culture will help enterprises realize the continuous flow of product delivery and innovation. The wave of innovation in the new normal will be propelled by the forces of time-tested practices and new next-generation approaches to enable enterprises to shift-left.