More and more Cyara customers are moving to an Agile/DevOps model because it allows them to release features more quickly, among other benefits. As one of Cyara’s Cloud Operations Managers, I’m tasked with automating operations and bringing together the development and operations teams. So I’d like to share what I’ve learned from our own Agile/DevOps journey.
The key to speeding innovation at Cyara has been finding ways to bring the Development and Operations teams together, which can be a challenging task. Part of the solution lies in aligning their incentives, management buy-in, and encouraging closer collaboration.
Management Are the Champions
In my experience, management needs to define shared goals and incentives — such as getting a certain number of deployments into production, or reducing the number of hours spent on manual tasks — that both teams can work towards. Behavior follows incentives.
It’s important to have a champion whose responsibility sits across Ops, Dev, and Product Management. It’s not always just about fixing problems, but about changing the way new features are added to the product. For that, there needs to be a holistic approach all the way from platform architecture, to baking component management into the product. This involves more than a trivial amount of development time, so everyone should be marching in the same direction.
Management also needs to be able to allocate resources and reassign tasks. A big part of the DevOps journey at Cyara has been automation, and this is true for other organizations as well. For this to work, management may need to hire automation specialists. We found that the automation infrastructure itself became a product that needed to be maintained. It doesn't just sit there and run for free — it needs ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, and features itself.
Dev and Ops often have competing incentives, and this needs to be addressed before progress can be made. This is not unique to Cyara. These two departments are often incentivized based on their own objectives, and those incentives can end up working at cross purposes, instead of reflecting goals for the whole business. As an example, Ops may be incentivized on uptime, while Dev is incentivized on throughput and low defect rates. This could lead to Ops developing infrastructure that doesn’t support high throughput, or Dev developing a product that doesn’t make it easy to achieve high uptime in production. Achieving alignment between the teams, with the guidance of management, is key to speeding innovation.
The Importance of Collaboration
Understanding Each Other’s Roles
It sounds obvious, but Ops and Dev teams need to work together much more closely so they understand what the other team is doing and how they work. The two teams need to come together regularly, constantly iterate, and work from the same agenda. For example, we found it was great to have members of the Dev team spend time with the Ops team.
Closer collaboration will overcome issues like the Dev team not knowing what the production environment looks like, and vice versa. For instance, Dev might do performance testing on physical machines, while Ops deploys using virtual machines, and one doesn’t know that the other tests a different way. Or, installers that may have worked during the development and QA phases can fail when subjected to security requirements in production. In this case, the Ops team needs to troubleshoot and solve problems manually, which takes time and introduces friction.
When the teams aren't working together effectively, Ops can get caught in a vicious cycle where the bulk of their effort is spent fire-fighting, which doesn’t leave time to perform work that produces sustained value by reducing the amount of fire-fighting required in the medium term. Sometimes, Ops only has limited scope in terms of how well they can fix issues. If the product is hard to install, manage, fix, or use, there isn’t much Ops can do about it.
A Dedicated DevOps Team
Creating a DevOps team is a good way to start the journey to increased collaboration. At Cyara, we started with one person, built a team, and are now looking to align and create some pilot projects that show the value of this approach. At that point, we can do an overall realignment to get everyone on board and collaborating. We're halfway through the culture change process, and have executive champions involved.
And as I’ve mentioned, executive buy-in is important. Without it, we got as far as automating many tasks on the Dev side so they could work faster and more cleanly and consistently and do stronger testing. But we were unable to take it all the way to production because the Ops team’s goals weren't the same.
The DevOps Approach and Faster Innovation at Cyara
Even though we are still working on breaking down silos, the benefits are already clear at Cyara in terms of how quickly we can innovate. It’s already much easier to see new features coming down the pipeline. When we see that a feature may present issues for the Ops team, we are able to do something about it early. Our executive champion has the opportunity to say we should do things differently. They are able to help align Ops and Dev to reduce or eliminate non-sustained value work for the Ops team, which helps break out of the vicious cycle of endless fire-fighting.
Introducing automation and investing in the associated infrastructure has delivered a lot of value to Cyara. But be aware that your staff may be apprehensive about this, so it’s important for executive champions to be proactive in making it clear that while the day-to-day work of jobs might be changing, the end result will often be that jobs will involve doing more interesting sustained value work.
It Takes Time
DevOps transformation isn’t an exact science and it’s difficult to achieve; different organizations approach it differently. Ultimately, this transformation involves cultural change, and it takes time to get everyone on the same page. That's because it extends beyond the Dev and Ops teams, and also involves change for Product Management, the UI team, and Business Analysts. Whether it is due to a team with mixed tenure and experience, or other factors, cultural change won’t just happen — an organization needs to work its way there gradually. But aligning incentives, having management buy-in, and encouraging collaboration are a good way to start the journey towards faster innovation.
How would you and your team approach adopting DevOps, and how would it benefit your organization?