Does DevOps have a “Last Mile” Problem?
Despite the endless amount of commentary on the topic of DevOps, something still seems to be missing. While the ultimate goal of DevOps is speed and agility, the linkage to business strategy is still a bit hazy. DevOps seems to have a “last mile” problem.
In telco and cable networks, the last mile refers to the final leg of the network that connects the user to the provider. The last mile is typically the performance bottleneck, which largely determines how the user perceives the speed and value of the service. Do have fiber to your home? Your Internet speed is blazing. Do you still have copper wires? Probably not so much. From a user perspective it doesn’t matter how much is invested in the core network. It’s the connection to their homes that matters.
As so we come to DevOps. The DevOps movement has done a fantastic job describing how culture, supported by tools and automation, can dramatically accelerate the software development lifecycle (SDLC). You can create the most agile, collaborative SDLC process, but if it’s not effectively linked to the business, it really doesn’t matter. DevOps needs to bridge the last mile to business strategy.
Why does more work to be done around the DevOps last mile?
First, let’s take a look at how the DevOps model is typically described. DevOps is seen as helping break down barriers between traditional silos in the SDLC. This typically means improving collaboration between some or all of the following roles:
- QA / Testing
- Change /Release Management
- IT Operations
- Security Management
Does anything seem missing? How about the fact that no business roles are on the list?
While someone from the business doesn’t necessarily need to be sitting in daily Scrum sessions, some explicit acknowledgement of how to incorporate the business into the DevOps model seems to be a gap. In general, there seems little discussion in the DevOps community of the need to get involved and educate the business on the DevOps model and how to leverage it.
So why is this important? DevOps needs stronger business participation to provide the explicit link to business strategy.
In many ways it’s understandable that the role of the business has been largely absent. The primary focus of DevOps to date has rightfully been focused on breaking down the traditional silos that have existed within IT. But agility for agility’s sake is pointless. The speed that DevOps delivers needs to support a business that requires and values it.
DevOps provides an incredible tool for the business to use: speed as a foundation for competitive advantage. The capability to rapidly capitalize on customer microsegments and trends identified via Big Data analytics offers a particularly attractive opportunity. The ability to respond quickly to changes in demand and competitive dynamics offers tremendous potential, but the “why, when, where, and how” to strategically leverage DevOps is still undefined for most.
While speed and agility will be critical to competing in many markets, other markets will still be driven by size advantages, scale, or scope. Just as reference architectures are valued as a way to accelerate IT innovation, more explicit “business reference architectures” need to be defined to identify where DevOps models can drive strategic advantage.
While DevOps to date has rightfully focused on addressing the IT bottlenecks preventing faster delivery, there’s still work to be done. Until the movement more closely integrates DevOps with business strategy, its promise and potential will remain unfulfilled.