It’s easy to get swept up in talking about the latest technology trend, but whenever you’re assessing your digital assets the first rule is to focus on the customer and their issues first before deciding on the technical approach. Often the simplest solution is the best solution, and this can mean resisting the temptation to develop a solution that uses technology such as AI, machine learning and blockchain, just to put the tick in the box.

At a recent conference hosted by Microsoft, there was a refreshing discussion about DevOps, which focused much more on the theory than the opportunity for Microsoft to sell to a captive audience. Whilst DevOps is an area that many consider to be an over-hyped trend, its core purpose is centralised around improving processes for the benefit of the people involved and less about the bells and whistles.

For me there were three key takeaways from the session: –

  • The first takeaway was the simplest, but perhaps not always the best understood, namely what is DevOps? The first response to that being, “it’s a job title”. We do now seem to see organisations introducing this term into job titles, but how many of these roles are truly understanding and embracing DevOps? The second response was “it’s a development and operations collaboration”- this is key; many forget that DevOps should be breaking down the barriers between the development teams and operations teams. The third named element to DevOps was, “it’s automation”. This is one of the reasons DevOps is so vital to improving business processes. It helps to eliminate the frustrations associated with the tasks that still remain manual and makes teams more efficient. The final point was “it means smaller and faster releases”, this enables businesses to adapt to the needs of their consumers quicker and means they can achieve CICD (Continuous Integration Continuous Deployment).
  • The second takeaway and perhaps the most poignant came from Donovan Brown, a Principal DevOps Manager at Microsoft who said, “DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users”. This encompassed all of the DevOps capabilities and reminded us all of the true reasoning behind adopting DevOps.
  • The final takeaway came from a video. To paint the picture, the video first showed footage of a driver making a pit-stop during a grand prix in the 1950s. The driver pulled into his pit box and at that point, about five people gathered around the car to start work. One person is changing the wheels and tyres; another person fills the car with fuel someone else wipes the small windscreen, and one other person is seen walking around the car checking for damage. Finally, there is a person seen talking with the driver. For those used to watching motor racing, and knowing that time lost in the pit lane can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of a race, the whole process looked very relaxed and in total took 54 seconds to complete. The next part of the video cut to an overhead shot of a modern-day Formula 1 car pulling into its pit box and then the army of pit crew going to work on the car. There are now nearly 20 people surrounding the car, including people employed simply to watch other people doing their jobs. So, not only is the team much bigger but there is also redundancy built into the process.

In the first sequence, the wheel change is undoubtedly slower, with the modern tools completing the task in a split second. The new day process is slick, organised and fast, taking just over three seconds to complete. In the space of 60 years, 50 seconds has been shaved off the time taken to perform a typical grand prix pit-stop. Moreover, it is a great example of how DevOps could transform the business processes of today. Similarly to the pit-stop, organisations should be full of teams of people working in close collaboration, automating a process and performing a faster release of the end solution. It is the union of people, process and product, that enables the car to return to the track quicker and more competitively, and the same is true for any business.