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October 5, 2020

Advice on Starting a DevOps Transformation at a Large Enterprise

By IT Revolution

A series of advice blogs from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2020 presenters.


It’s a simple question, really. But just how do you start a DevOps transformation at a large enterprise?

Like so many big endeavors, it’s the simple act of how and when to take that first step that can be the most daunting.

We pulled together advice from top leaders in the industry who have all had to take that first step. Here’s what they have to say:

How do you start a DevOps transformation?

“You first need to make sure everyone understands that DevOps isn’t a technical problem or a job description. It is a change in how the entire organization operates. How do you as an organization go from idea to verifying the value of that idea with your consumers as rapidly and efficiently as possible? Then you need to create measurable goals, have a transparent way to continuously show how you are improving, nurture grassroots excitement and communities, make tools easy and self-service, give the teams the problem of how to deliver better, give them any support they need to do that, and get out of their way.”
—Bryan Finster, Value Stream Architect, Walmart DevOps Dojo, Walmart

“Start small and focus on DevOps principles.”
—Mick Miller, Senior Product Manager, Cloud Native, KeyBank

“Education on the language and goal/purpose for doing so. Its important to get buy in from the top of possible, and look for quick wins to show momentum and the benefit.”
—Adam Shake,
Director of Site Reliability Engineering, MediaMath Source

“Like all of DevOps, you need to establish a partnership. In this case, between leadership and those on the front line.”
—Dave Mangot, Principal, Mangoteque

“Determine where your delivery efforts may be slowing down and tackle those. Get a plan in place to make incremental changes, gather data, and determine if the changes you made moved the needle in your delivery.”
—Christopher McFee, Director of DevOps Practices, KeyBank

“Start with a smaller team that proves out what can be done if the culture is adopted by other teams.”
—Jonathan Akers, Product Owner – RadioCentral, Motorola Solutions

“Start SMALL: pick one team. They might be high performers, might be low performers. What matters is that they’re willing to try something new. Get enough buy-in from their management that they’ll have cover–room to fail and learn. Measure their current performance on the DORA key metrics. Try some DevOps things; keep trying until they have measurable improvements. Then celebrate their successes, share their learnings. Repeat.”
—David Stanke, Developer Advocate, Google

“You start a DevOps Transformation by focusing on one problem worth solving and use it as a combination training ground and laboratory.”
—Jeffrey Fredrick, coauthor of Agile Conversations

“Create a sense of urgency and start small.”
—Roman Pickl, Technical Project Manager and Continuous Improvement Agent, Elektrobit

“With the smallest convenient unit – even just one person using infra-as-code, for example, can make a significant difference.”
—Douglas Squirrel, coauthor of Agile Conversations

How do you get buy-in for a DevOps transformation?

“You don’t. If you’re starting with a position that you want others to ‘buy into,’ you’ve already lost. If you want someone to change, you have to make it their idea.”
—Matt K. Parker, author

“I’ve had the most success with the ‘roadshow:’ meeting the members of the senior leadership team in 1-on-1 settings. You are more likely to be able to target your pitch to their individual interests and questions, and you can often get more candid feedback this way.”
—Jon Moore, Chief Software Architect & Senior Fellow, Comcast Cable

“Have them read the Accelerate, the State of DevOps reports, and furnish them with a handout of the financial figures of the respondents. “That’s what they do. This is how they’re winning.” Really have them read it, though, stand by their shoulder. Sending links won’t do!”
—Duena Blomstrom, Author, Co-Founder and CEO, Emotional Banking and PeopleNotTech

“Start with small experiments. Find a few small teams who are interested. Measure how they are delivering today. Start improving things and publish the results frequently. Track what worked, what didn’t work, and how the team feels. Hope you have leadership who want a better organization and have long-term vision. Pro tip: do not form a team of ’10x Devs.’ Start with teams that already know each other. Having an existing team improve removes lots of ‘unicorn team’ arguments and goes much faster.”
—Bryan Finster, Value Stream Architect, Walmart DevOps Dojo, Walmart

“Carrots and sticks…carrot: improving software delivery is proven to correlate with improved business outcomes. Stick: you know that software has eaten the world; your competitors know it too, and if you don’t up your game, they’re going to beat you at software.”
—David Stanke, Developer Advocate, Google

“Take a data driven approach. Hard dollar savings are the easiest conversations to have and process efficiencies lead to additional savings. Increased delivery velocity leads to potential revenue generation and/or delighted customers for new features and functionalities. Reduction in bugs or being able to fix bugs faster also increases reputation and delights customers. You can focus on NPS as well, but at the end of the day you need to start with data to create the story for change.”
—Christopher McFee, Director of DevOps Practices, KeyBank

“You get buy-in by understanding the business problems that will be addressed by the transformation. If you don’t know what those business problems are you don’t have table stakes for buy-in.”
—Jeffrey Fredrick, coauthor of Agile Conversations

- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

Trusted by technology leaders worldwide. Since publishing The Phoenix Project in 2013, and launching DevOps Enterprise Summit in 2014, we’ve been assembling guidance from industry experts and top practitioners.

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