Follow the engineer: what DevOps teams can teach businesses about agility and efficiency

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Follow the engineer: what DevOps teams can teach businesses about agility and efficiency

The pandemic threw out the rulebook on work. And we’re still slowly writing a new one. 

Over the past year and a half, companies have been forced to rethink their processes to accommodate lockdown restrictions and the seismic shift in work they triggered. Remote working rendered old systems obsolete and companies are figuring out how to adapt them.

But this isn’t just a reactive exercise. The organisational disruption we’ve experienced is an opportunity to proactively build afresh and combine the benefits of distributed, flexible working (such as greater accessibility and inclusivity) with new processes that allow organisations to operate with an agility and efficiency they’ve not experienced before. Those that get it right will be positioning themselves at the front of their respective fields.

With the stakes this high and the options wide, knowing where to start can be difficult. But as organisations cast about for solutions, they should pay attention to the invaluable resource right under their noses. There’s one team within most businesses that has worked in an agile, efficient, result-orientated way for years, who can give them a framework for the future of work. The team? DevOps. 

Here’s what organisations can learn about efficiency and agility from their DevOps department.

Improving communication and collaboration

When teams are spread across vast distances - and potentially time zones - collaboration is crucial. It’s all too easy for information silos to form, important details become buried in email chains and time drains away clearing up confusion or hunting for the data you need.

But collaboration is what DevOps teams do best. DevOps has collaboration written into its DNA: it’s the merging of two departments; software development and IT operations. And success relies on everyone being able to clearly, and instantly, communicate with each other - allowing the team to share ideas, quickly pivot when circumstances change, and work more efficiently by getting the answers they need.

The way they practically achieve this is through channel-based messaging apps. DevOps have long relied on them - in fact, Slack was created by software engineers who needed a more efficient way to communicate when building a game. These tools give DevOps teams the ability to transparently, instantly communicate with each other, allowing them to work with agility and efficiency and finish projects faster.

The benefits of such tools aren’t just for IT teams. Any department can work more precisely and be more adaptive if they can collaborate better. And these digital platforms can help organisations solve one of their biggest challenges in this new era of work: keeping hold of the spark that comes from in-office interactions and is crucial for team bonding and creativity. By creating an ecosystem that makes it easier to talk to teammates, these apps facilitate virtual ‘water cooler’ conversations that are vital both personally and professionally.

A single source of truth

Channel-based messaging can also help organisations adopt the SSOT approach.

The single source of truth (SSOT) model is well-known in the IT community. DevOps teams understand that everyone needs access to a central hub of up-to-date information, so team members can easily find the details they’re looking for and no one’s working on data from document version 2 when everyone else is on version 35. And this hub is also a place to document best practice and true process.

Following this model is essential for all disciplines if teams are to work cohesively post-pandemic. It breaks up information silos, makes onboarding new talent much more efficient and helps teams work more productively by minimising errors and making access to information effortless.

This ability to easily share knowledge is one of the ways Slack is helping Vodafone teams innovate and scale. Using Slack’s platform, Vodafone software developer teams can easily pass on knowledge and experience to help other team members and even create shared code libraries so innovations can be instantly adopted by other markets. If one team creates a search function or app update, another can instantly integrate it into their project, rather than building it from scratch. This means teams aren’t wasting time duplicating work and product building is accelerated as ideas can be quickly built on top of each other. And it enhances employee satisfaction as teams can see their work directly making a difference to others around the world.

Embracing automation

Finally, organisations need to follow DevOps in embracing automation. DevOps departments know that a line of well-written code can save them hours in automating manual, repetitive tasks and give them the time and head space to concentrate on more difficult problems.

This lesson applies across the wider organisation too. The winners in this new era will be those accelerating their work through automation, allowing them to work more efficiently and with fewer errors, by reducing manual data entry. This isn’t about replacing jobs but making employees’ lives easier.

The benefits automation brings can again be illustrated by Slack’s partnership with Vodafone. Vodafone’s use of the PageDuty integration means that when an incident occurs in a production environment, the right team - even the right individual - is immediately notified in Slack. In the past, it would take 15 to 20 minutes to find the root cause of a problem - now, thanks to this integration, mean time to resolution is below five minutes.

Of course, DevOps teams aren’t pre-programmed with all the answers. But when it comes to better ways of working, they have the right ideas. If organisations want to set themselves up to work more efficiently, productively and with more agility, they should start thinking like DevOps.