It’s no surprise that DevOps is a hot topic in the IT industry. The most recent Puppet Labs’ “2015 State of DevOps Report” showed that high-performing IT teams were twice as likely to exceed goals in profit, market share and productivity. They also boasted 30x more frequent deployments, 60x fewer failures, 60x higher change success rates and 160x faster recoveries.
And while many vendors claim DevOps is about automation and continuous delivery, they fail to mention the number one success factor: culture. The core of the DevOps movement is about removing silos and improving collaboration between IT and development teams. Underpinning this movement is the culture, collaboration and sharing that bring about these monumental results.
Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project, talks about the second way of DevOps – amplifying your feedback loops. “The outcomes include understanding and responding to all customers, internal and external, shortening and amplifying all feedback loops, and embedding knowledge where we need it,” writes Kim.
IT support teams have a unique perspective on the impact software has on users. They speak to users, day-in and day-out, listening to their feedback and solving their issues. This amounts to a wealth of knowledge that has the power to fix or improve products, reduce future customer requests and improve customer satisfaction. But is this feedback actually making its way back to product development?
To find out how IT support and development teams work together, the JIRA Service Desk team from Atlassian commissioned research with HDI, the largest association for technical support professionals with 150,000 members. This slideshow features highlights from the study, as well as best practices organizations can implement to improve collaboration between the teams.
Connecting IT Support and DevOps
Click through for highlights from a DevOps/IT support team study from HDI and the JIRA Service Desk team from Atlassian, as well as best practices organizations can implement to improve collaboration between the teams.
Lack of Collaboration
The study found a significant lack of collaboration between IT support and development teams, with 73 percent of support teams being dissatisfied with their current level of involvement with development.
Best Practices: Organizations need to build a company culture that focuses on and promotes team work and collaboration. To start the process, set up shared goals across teams and schedule regular cross-functional meetings to review software demos and customer insights, and to increase cross-functional awareness.
Lack of Preparedness
The study also found that IT support teams were often unprepared for new releases, with 99 percent of respondents saying releases posed a challenge for their team. This is especially true for the 74 percent who reported receiving notifications after the software was operationalized.
IT support teams have a unique opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. By not proactively engaging IT support teams, development teams run the risk of impacting customer satisfaction and the benefits that their releases would bring to customers.
Best Practices: Teams need to share dates and timelines on key activities, such as code freezes, release to launch, and grandfathering, if applicable. Teams should also share messaging and communications, take time to build and review customer documentation, and provide training sessions for IT support staff. It’s also a good idea to run through a support “blitz” (e.g., run through the end-to-end deployment process) in an attempt to uncover hidden bugs.
The study found that 40 percent of respondents were not familiar with DevOps or what it entails. This should not come as a surprise as there is limited collaboration happening between software and IT support teams and ITIL is the most widely adopted best practice within IT support organizations. ITIL focuses on the entire service lifecycle management, relying strongly on documentation and process.
Best Practices: Begin the education process with IT support teams.
Lack of Knowledge Sharing
The study found a definite lack of knowledge sharing between development and support teams, with only 41 percent of respondents reporting that they share knowledge with each other. Knowledge management is the second most required technology to provide great end-user support, according to HDI.
Best Practices: A lack of sharing knowledge isn’t planned for, but many organizations do not have the right culture of collaboration and sharing in place. Reduce functional silos and tools that do not provide an easy way to share content and information across teams.
Ineffective Change Management
While 89 percent of organizations have a change management process implemented, more than half of organizations (51 percent) have a change process that does not work. Change management is the second most adopted service management process according to HDI and is critical to collaboration between IT support and development. A common change management practice for IT teams following ITIL is having a change advisory board (CAB) approve any software or infrastructure changes. The State of DevOps Report 2014 showed that when change approval boards were involved before deploying to production, IT performance decreased. The report also found that external change approval processes had little impact to stability.
Best Practices: When the IT team uses peer review techniques, performance increases. For organizations with a successful change management process, they have more involvement in all stages of development, from predevelopment, testing and post-release.
Lack of Collaboration Tools
The study found a significant lack of collaboration tools in place to help teams work together better. Most support teams aren’t able to view updates in development tools, and 85 percent say the lack of visibility in the development/QA tool creates a challenge for support teams. Only 28 percent have integrated tools.
Best Practices: IT support and development teams should work on the same platform or at least have integration between their respective systems to facilitate collaboration, knowledge sharing and traceability of changes. Sharing information and collaboration should be part of the basic capabilities IT tools offer, as well as integration points to prevent context switching that wastes time and affects productivity.
ITIL and DevOps Can Be Complementary
ITIL focuses on the entire service lifecycle management, relying strongly on documentation and process. DevOps focuses on software development and delivery, relying strongly on culture and tooling. Both are practices available for IT teams to deliver value to the wider organization. Customers want both stability and innovation. IT teams need to continuously innovate, deploying features at a faster pace while ensuring a reliable service. ITIL and DevOps are complementary as:
- Automation needs to be built on robust processes.
- Shipping software more frequently means deploying individual or smaller changes that are less likely to create incidents/impact service levels.
- Both ITIL and DevOps can be used to achieve a common goal that many IT and business organizations now have as a KPI: customer satisfaction.