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Top 10 challenges in scaling DevOps

DevOps has seen incredible growth across organizations in a very short time. 50% of organizations have implemented DevOps, and 27% are planning to implement it in the next year. As with any significant changes from traditional development workflows, DevOps brings benefits as well as challenges. For your organization to succeed with DevOps, you’ll need to consider these potential issues and prepare accordingly.

1. Changing Your Organization’s Culture

75% of major organizational change initiatives fail, and the leading cause is neglecting the company culture. DevOps is all about faster releases, and the only way for it to work is to encourage communication and collaboration across departments. Developers, software architects, DevOps engineers, SRE engineers, product managers, marketing teams, and customer success all need to be willing to come together to abandon the status quo.

“…the biggest opportunities for improvement in most large organizations [is] not in how the individual teams work but more in how all the different teams come together to deliver value to the customer. This is where I believe the DevOps principle…really helps.” – Gary Gruver, author of Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise

2. Getting Everyone On Board

DevOps can be a big change, and for it to succeed everyone needs to be on board. This includes executives, IT and business managers, and everyone involved in development and operations to identify and use the right tools. The good news is, getting executive buy-in for DevOps is expected to become significantly easier throughout 2019.

3. Innovating Faster While Reducing Risk

Shorter release cycles mean less time to build, test, and deploy changes. Having manual processes in your pipeline will only delay your release cycle. Teams need to move quickly without sacrificing quality, and the best solution is automation. Automation will initially take time to implement, but it allows teams to perform tasks and share data faster in the long run.

4. Facing the Cost of DevOps

DevOps doesn’t reduce costs so much as it grows revenue. Faster release cycles mean greater value added to your product, resulting in average revenue gains of 19%. But the initial cost of introducing new technologies, training employees, and migrating old systems can be substantial at first, and it’s easy to get discouraged when the benefits aren’t realized immediately.

“If you can keep delivering features and they bring in revenue…and you’re doing it off the same – or slightly increased – cost base, that’s a huge conversation, and it’s one I don’t think is leveraged quite enough or really effectively.” – Nicole Forsgren, CEO of DevOps Research and Assessment (Dora)

5. Optimizing Your Deployment Pipeline

How much of your build, test, and deployment processes can you automate? Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) is the cornerstone of DevOps, minimizing both the time and cost of moving a feature from development to production. The faster you can deploy new features, the more value you can reap from DevOps. However, one of the main challenges we see is how to enforce company policies and development standards without slowing down development and without relying on individuals to remember to follow them. Automated deployment cycles leave little time for reviews, increasing the risk of lapses such as exposing secret keys and credentials or misconfiguration of infrastructure. Learn more about Automated Policy Enforcement.

6. Transitioning from Expertise Teams to Cross-functional Teams

Nothing kills a DevOps initiative faster than siloed teams. DevOps thrives on cross-team collaboration and communication. Some organizations are turning to integrated product teams, which bring together employees from multiple departments to solve a specific business problem. But the challenge of changing the structure of this group from expertise teams to cross-functional teams is not insignificant. How to integrate frontend, backend, data, DevOps, and automation engineers on a team productively instead of working solely within their departments, requires improved application architectures and developer workflows – to be sure that the culture of collaboration does not backfire with the new structure.

7. Scaling DevOps from the Bottom-Up

Normally, changes are dictated by management to employees. DevOps works in reverse: change originates from employees, and management needs to get on board with a hand-off of control. Developers already know what they need to get the job done, so why not let them decide on the tools and platforms? Trust DevOps teams to build the environments, and leave the managing to management.

8. Managing Multiple Environments

One of the top pain points of DevOps is managing multiple environments. This includes hosting development, test, and production environments; mixing modern and legacy applications; and moving services to the cloud. Without a plan in place, managing these environments can quickly get out of hand.

9. Sharing Knowledge

Tribal knowledge is a big problem, and DevOps can make it worse – processes change, new tools appear, and services are moved to different platforms. Without good documentation or a knowledge base, collaboration with other team members can quickly become a nightmare.

10. Securing Your Infrastructure

Security is such a big topic in DevOps that it has its own name: DevSecOps. With DevSecOps, security is introduced at the beginning of the deployment cycle, resulting in safer deployments without sacrificing speed. This goes not only for your product but for your pipeline as well.

Conclusion

Although most enterprises have adopted some form of DevOps, many of them have had trouble scaling it. 84% of enterprises have adopted DevOps to some degree, but only 30% use DevOps company-wide. Overcoming these challenges is crucial if your organization plans to adopt and scale DevOps successfully.

Arthur Schmunk
Block misconfigurations,
not deployments.