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April 26, 2017

Biggest Obstacles to DevOps Success According to DOES17 London Conference Speakers

By IT Revolution
DevOps Enterprise Summit

Though DevOps adoption has picked up speed in the last few years, many organizations still have a long way to go. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be meeting in London in June if DevOps transformations were a piece of cake. The reality is that change takes time.

Our talented DevOps Enterprise Summit London speakers have worked on implementing DevOps at some of the world’s largest and most complex organizations and are well aware of the obstacles impeding DevOps success. We asked them what the biggest problem areas or challenges are to large-scale DevOps transformations and got a number of thought-provoking answers. (Note: by clicking on the link on each speaker’s name, you will be directed toward a description of their speaking session at DOES17 London).

Many of our speakers pointed directly to culture as the toughest challenge they’ve seen.

“I can confidently state that culture is the largest area to transform. It requires vision, focus and execution,” says Oliver Jacques, of DXC Technology. “We, leaders coaching a high-performance enterprise transformation through DevOps, must understand how to enable a collaborative, transparent, positive and blameless culture. This is very counter-intuitive to most of us who are engineers.”

“To manage a cultural shift in a large-scale BizDevOps organization and to allow for the needed alignment amongst all teams without limiting the autonomy of an Agile and DevOps culture is the greatest challenge,” says Christopher Schaer, head of digital development at Swisscom.

Alexa Alley from Hearst tells us that culture change needs to happen across the entire organization, not just within software teams. She says, “Transforming a business that has been creating a workflow and community for years that is now ingrained in the employees, leadership and processes is extremely difficult.” And many folks who are used to doing things a certain way may struggle to adopt change. Common objections, as Rob England of the IT Skeptic points out, are lack of resources and fear of change. Rosalind Radcliffe from IBM reminds us that, “legacy processes are hard for users to move from.”

Jens Wilhems, head of development foundation at Swisscom, says that changing culture is a long-term and slow process. It requires “energy” and “endurance” before we see the benefits.

Jose Quaresma, from Accenture, says, “The biggest challenges when applying large-scale DevOps transformations are that you come with this new way of working, new paradigm, that requires changes in several dimensions of the organization: in the tools you use, in the processes you rely on, and (most of the time) in the company’s culture.”

Jose points out the importance of culture, but also touches on the scale of changes needed for a DevOps transformation. It is not just cultural change but changing tools and processes. Many of our speakers also pointed to organizational structure and complex IT environments as barriers to DevOps success.

“Coordinating changes in process, tooling, organizational structure and communication,” are the greatest challenges to a DevOps transformation according to Nigel Kersten from Puppet. These changes could create tension, he explains, since the new may, “displace existing power structures and individual roles.”

David Rogers, head of architecture and security at the Ministry of Justice, takes a unique stance and says the greatest challenge is, “access to the skills we need to bring automation to a large estate of legacy technology.”

Other speakers call out senior leadership’s role in effectively carrying an organization through a DevOps transformation. Grassroots initiatives can only go so far without buy-in from executive-level players. DevOps coache Steve Mayner agrees that leaders have a great influence on creating change and setting the tone for an organization’s ability to adopt DevOps principles.

So how can we “Break the status quo and make the process and people transformation,” as Amine Boudali, senior project manager at Nordea, says? In our next post, we’ll be sharing the suggestions these same speakers have given us for solving the challenges just mentioned. We will be diving into their top lessons learned and DevOps favorite patterns. After all, the “obstacles are not in the path, obstacles are the path,” as Jonathan Smart says.

Also, the DevOps Enterprise Summit made some big announcements this week regarding the San Francisco conference, coming up November 13–15. The call for presentations is now open and we are looking for the best and the brightest to join us at this year’s event. Here’s some advice from IT Revolution Founder Gene Kim, and members of the conference programming committee, with tips on creating a winning speaking submission. We look forward to seeing your ideas! You can submit online here.

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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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