Of all the roles that will be affected by the transition from traditional IT to a DevOps model, perhaps the most consequential is that of the CIO.
The CIO must not only manage the changes to infrastructure and processes that guide this new form of knowledge work, but must also reevaluate the basic functions that a CIO must perform, leading to the very real possibility that the job will be broken up into multiple chief officers overseeing performance, security, technology, and a host of other elements.
Driving all of this, of course, is the need to implement a successful DevOps strategy, and this is difficult to do when there is so little guidance into DevOps practices and operating models, or even a clear definition of what “success” actually is. According to Eran Kinsbruner, tech guru at software testing firm Perfecto and author of the Digital Quality Handbook, DevOps practitioners and CIOs are already seeing a disconnect in their outlooks of the movement regarding things like strategies, customer experience requirements and even basic progress. A recent Forrester report showed that while 60 percent of CIOs believe DevOps have already been implemented in their organizations and are in fact expanding, about half of DevOps workers believe the exact opposite.
To ensure a smooth transition, then, the CIO and developers should agree on three key elements of a DevOps environment. First, there should be a rapid move to automate testing in order to support real-time, continuous application and software support. As well, the enterprise should accelerate the migration of key IT systems from legacy infrastructure to the cloud, which has proven to be more stable and reliable than traditional architectures. And finally, advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things should only be deployed if there is a clearly identifiable benefit to the DevOps process. Until these technologies mature a bit more, they may actually hinder the transition more than they help.
The transition to DevOps is also affected by the fact that the fundamental role of the CIO is evolving due to a number of factors besides changes to development and operational models. Recent research from IT staffing firm TEKsystems suggests that as core functions continue to be outsourced at many enterprises, leadership on tech-related matters is migrating away from actual technicians and more toward line-of-business managers. This puts CIOs on more of a transformational footing as opposed to mere technical support, which in many ways enhances their value to the organization as providers of more strategic, business-oriented insight and guidance.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that details matter in the transition to DevOps, which, as InformationWeek’s John Edwards points out, can lead to big problems when trying to change too much too quickly. As with any architecture, the first step is to build a strong foundation, which in this case should include things like broad collaboration and high degrees of system interoperability. From there, the CIO should proceed to small projects, if only to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t before heading on to more substantial endeavors. Along the way, expect to meet stiff resistance from those who prefer to maintain the status quo in their own areas of responsibility rather than embrace the broader need for organizational change.
Probably the biggest change that DevOps represents compared to previous IT innovations is that it is not merely a matter of deploying more powerful technology and then waiting to see how it can be used. Rather, the process here is reversed, with technology experts, business managers and other stakeholders defining their preferred outcomes first and then back-filling the infrastructure and procedural changes to achieve those desires.
In this light, the traditional job of ensuring top performance of systems and platforms will give way to ensuring top performance of applications and services.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.