Communications in a DevOps-Centric Enterprise

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  • June 7, 2017
  • Helen Murphy

If you have anything to do with software development, odds are good you have heard the term DevOps.

For the uninitiated, DevOps is about getting software applications to market faster by getting the development and operations departments (DevOps!) to work together.

Traditionally, software development teams work in silos. Projects are divided up by specialization, function, or system to keep ownership clear and streamlined. However, working in silos creates problems within the development process. Projects can be delayed if someone with specific knowledge leaves the company, or bottlenecks can occur within a silo, backing up the entire project. Furthermore, complications can arise when the different pieces of the project inevitably must work together.

DevOps, at its heart, is about breaking down these silos by implementing a business culture that promotes collaboration and communication – two concepts we understand thoroughly at INK. The shift to DevOps can be incredibly difficult for enterprises. Here is my take on DevOps best practices from experts, with an INK twist.

Communication is Key
According to Michael Butt, with Boundary, members of a DevOps team “should communicate often and over multiple methods, whether that’s email, chat, text, phone meetings or video calls.” Communication is critical to breaking down the “silo” mentality. When teams keep each other updated, it ensures the full group is on the same page, has visibility into all aspects of the project, and are aware of and working towards solving the same problems.

We have a number of internal communications best practices at INK that can work in a DevOps culture:

  • All meetings have agendas. An agenda ensures that the meeting is needed, that it stays on track and that action items and next steps are identified.
  • To-do’s and major updates should be sent via email. In a busy environment, it is so easy to forget an ask relayed via phone or IM.
  • Use IM for quick questions and conversations. Nearly 2.4 million emails are sent every second – reduce inbox clutter and keep quick conversations and questions to messaging systems, in person or on the phone.
  • Don’t forget in-person or phone conversations. In the age of email and instant messaging, it’s easy to forget the benefits of a phone call or face-to-face conversation.

Finding the Right Tools
Jenkins, Ansible, Chef, Puppet, Docker – this is not a random collection of words but a very small sampling of the multiple tools that enterprises can use to achieve a DevOps culture. Cynthia Harvey at Datamation writes, “Experts say that in order to encourage communication and collaboration, it’s very important to have tools that allow everyone to see in real time how work on IT projects is progressing.”

While the tools used in DevOps and PR and marketing are vastly different, project management is necessary in any industry. We have a few tool experts at INK that are always looking for the latest and greatest project management software. When evaluating potential project management tools, our CEO, Starr Million Baker, advises to first and foremost look for tools that people will use. Bells and whistles don’t matter if employees don’t use the tool. Ask yourself, is it a “destination” that people will want to go to and will employees consider it easy enough to use that they find themselves living within the platform. If the answer is no, keep looking. To find the right tools, Starr recommends keeping an eye on Twitter. People will talk about the software they like.

It’s All About the People
It’s key to remember that DevOps is a cultural shift, and the success of any cultural shift comes down to employees’ willingness to embrace it. As the SunView Software team writes, “If you want your DevOps plans to truly transform your IT operations, you must ensure that your everyday employees are prepared to embrace the change… They need to understand why they should adjust how they work and be put in the best possible position to find success when they have adjusted their operations.”

There are three big things that INK does to ensure employee buy-in on culture changes that can also apply to any DevOps team in transition:

  • An open-door policy: This ties back in to communication. When employees can ask questions freely, buy-in, communication and workflow are all improved.
  • Hiring the right people: Communications, like DevOps, requires employees can embrace a culture of engagement. This keeps silos from being built.
  • Leadership stepping into employee shoes: When the leadership team understands employee questions, concerns, workloads, and career goals, they can respond to problems before they arise and use employee skill sets to the company’s advantage.

The DevOps movement is one that will continue to grow. We are keeping a close eye on developments as it is a movement that truly stands to change how apps, software and updates are rolled out to consumers. If you want to chat DevOp shoot me an email at helen@ink-pr.com.

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