Is Your DevOps Journey Pointed in the Right Direction?

As IT organizations implement DevOps practices, their journey can take many twists and turns as, over time, the needs of the business change. How do you know your DevOps journey is headed in the right direction?  If you were to reduce your cycle time by 80 percent would that be considered a success?  How will you know you are building and delivering customer value?

Success can take many forms depending on your objectives and perspective, and DevOps success stories run the gamut from turning red lights to green to delivering a major innovative change that transforms the business.  The assumption is that if software is delivered with speed and quality, the business will just take off.  While there are many benefits to improving software delivery, there is no guarantee that this will improve the business. To understand whether you are pointed in the right direction, it is critical to focus on customer feedback and measure the effects your changes have on delivering customer value.  Without this focus your journey can easily go off the rails.

To keep it simple and ensure your DevOps journey stays on track, consider three important areas of focus:

What is important for your business?

A lot of times, IT organizations continuously look inward, focusing on improving their capabilities without taking into consideration the needs of the business, and sometimes this results in wasted time and resources.  It is important to remember, it does not matter how well and how quickly you build and deliver the wrong thing. Keeping that in mind, make sure you meet with the business stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure your objectives are prioritized to their current business needs.

In today’s environment, business objectives can change quickly – one minute the business might need to streamline online claims processing by 40% in response to a catastrophic event, but the next minute they are required to or respond to a competitive threat.  As a result, you want to build capabilities with the agility to meet the changing business requirements.  Every day counts, and ruthless prioritization is critical. To succeed, it’s important to say “no” to things that don’t matter.

DevOpsFocusFast feedback is as important as release velocity

The first thing most IT organizations work on when implementing DevOps is automating the deployment pipeline. They are laser focused on the fast flow of software from left to right.  And, many times, the same level of engineering and effort is not leveraged to create a fast feedback loop for the changes deployed.

The question should not be how fast can you ship code, but how fast can you ship code and get feedback. If you ship daily, but only get feedback once a month, you will fail. The feedback loop needs to be designed all the way out to the customer with inbound constraints removed as it flows back to development. Often, feedback and alerts are filtered by teams upstream, causing significant delays and further distancing the dev team from the customer. To prevent delays, feedback should go directly to the originator of the change.

The speed at which you receive the feedback will determine how fast you can drive value to the customer.  Competing in the marketplace is not a linear experience.  You constantly have to course correct to adjust to customer needs and to fix mistakes. If you get good at course correcting, the cost of being wrong goes down substantially. In the end, the companies that can course correct faster will learn faster and adjust to the marketplace giving them a unique competitive advantage.

DevOpsSpeedMeasure outcomes and not just outputs

It’s important to ensure you are measuring outcomes and not just outputs. Outputs are things you produce, either physical or virtual.  Most IT organizations measure the output of their work, for example, speed of deployments or change failure rates.  Measuring the output is great to gauge the performance of the organization; however, outcomes, on the other hand, result in tangible benefits to the business or the customers.

Defining and measuring business metrics focused on customer experience and business success will enable you to understand the outcome of your output.  Leveraging A/B testing to drive customer experience metrics can help to quickly validate your results, and customer satisfaction surveys, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS), can tell if you are trending in the right direction.  In addition, metrics, such as conversion rates and renewals, should be measured to determine business value. By demonstrating business value, you will provide a clear business mandate for your DevOps initiative.DevOps Webinar

Summary

DevOps practices can deliver operational efficiencies and tremendous benefits for the IT organization, but success is linked to proof of the business value delivered.  To drive true value and ultimate DevOps success, an IT organization must focus on business objectives and customer experience, measuring not only your outputs, but also the benefits the business and your customers receive from your work.

We are going to be discussing this topic on the next DevOps Live webinar on April 4th at 9 a.m. pst.  Come join us!

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