Adopting Agile and DevOps in business

In today’s digital economy, strategic software development is the key to drive innovation and boost competitive advantage.

As more companies are trying to remain ahead of the competition, it is becoming essential that they implement Agile and DevOps methodologies to thrive. Agile and DevOps will bring them an array of benefits that will only boost their potential.

Hence, we have talked to experts in the industry to share their insights on what can Agile and DevOps bring to businesses.

 

Agile and DevOps: why are they essential?

First of all, we have asked them to define Agile and DevOps and tell us why do they think these are two essential methodologies for businesses.

Arman Kamran, Agile and Technology Transition Leader and CTO of Prima Recon, starts by defining Agile as a mindset, a methodology, and a modernized way of doing the work necessary to create successful products and services in an incremental, exploratory way by quickly hitting the market with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and using the feedback to adapt and re-align to the changing market trends and customer needs and repeat the process through the lifetime of the product.

He continues by saying that Agile is the culmination of decades of trials and innovative efforts by project and product managers who found the traditional ways to be painfully slow to adapt to customers’ shifting needs and priorities and too rigid to align with a changing market fast enough.

According to him, Agile is necessary as it:

  • Recognizes a primary and important role for the teams and the people involved in producing services and products, higher than processes and tools that are used.
  • Invests the bulk of energy and efforts on providing functioning and useful products and services, instead of trying to create and maintain comprehensive documentation of the work (which would have to go through changes when we adjust and re-align our effort at the end of each iteration).
  • Gives higher value to customer collaboration throughout the entire incremental product (and service) creation and improvement (via short feedback cycles), way above and higher than trying to lock-in customers in ironclad contracts.
  • Puts the high focus on the team’s ability to quickly respond to changes (in customer needs or preferences and market trends), instead of forcing them to follow a pre-cast plan (thus taking away their flexibility to adapt and re-align quickly).

Hence, Arman highlights that Agile scaling has become a globally identified need when the number of Agile teams in enterprise raised and synchronized collaboration among them became too complicated.

Neil Gardner, Founder and Principal at NMG Advisory, adds that Agile is both project management and a software development process that is based on small, iterative pieces of work.

For him, Agile is vital to get the customer close to the selection of what work is done next.

According to Jitander Kapil, Head of DevOps at Larsen & Toubro, when agile is implemented in large enterprises, the business priority is set on centralized planning and decision-making, which helps them be more productive and efficient.

He also highlights that Agile and DevOps in business are beneficial as it provides fast feedback loops, a higher collaboration between teams, as well as brings an innovative mindset to the table.

Moreover, Arman points out that DevOps is an essentially complementary set of practices to the Agile software development, following the same mission of shortening the delivery cycle of products with the addition of forming Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. It applies principles of Lean Manufacturing and Design Thinking in addition to Agile methods.

He emphasizes the fact that DevOps uses a cross-functional working model, bringing together the two – traditionally separate and opposing – IT groups of Development and Operations.

Indeed, DevOps bridges that gap by merging the two – formerly contradicting – groups into one consolidated stream, where the design and development are done with considerations on how to operationalize and maintain the product, and the deployment and maintaining of that product are done with considerations on how to allow an ongoing, smooth, incremental revision and update of that product in the future.

According to Neil, DevOps is a combination of practices and tools that breaks down the traditional barriers between software development and operations.

Hence, these two methodologies are proven to be superior to those that they are replacing. Adopting Agile and DevOps is a matter of competitive survival.

Besides, Arman adds, the pandemic has then significantly raised the popularity and adoption of Agile Frameworks and DevOps due to their core ability in enabling organizations to quickly adapt and respond to the fast-changing market conditions and customer needs and preferences, while reducing their production costs, improving their product quality, and lifting stress from their teams’ shoulders.

‘This is a vital strength and the key to the survival – and even growth – of many businesses these days.’

 

Agile and DevOps: driving digital transformations and innovation?

The key to a comprehensive and successful digital transformation, Arman highlights, is to establish the needed working environment and processes that would allow for a quick adaptation of new digital working models, tools and process flows in an incrementally progressive format enriched with short feedback cycles.

Hence, he says, we need to have the right tools, processes, and internal expertise and put in place a way to quickly but incrementally make changes and get feedback on the outcome and adjust our next step based on that. We then need to continue with this approach until we have met the organizational OKRs for the digital transformation.

‘Agile is the framework which provides quickly adapting, incrementally progressing, lean approaches to implement changes through short feedback cycles and re-alignment at every iteration.’

By using Agile frameworks, Arman continues, enterprises can orchestrate their entire digital transformation through several parallel streams running series of small incremental changes and immediately checking the outcome and decide whether to continue in the same path or re-align and adapt to the new best next step.

Indeed, Agile frameworks are designed for rapid market experimentation of innovative ideas. They enable teams to quickly assess the market’s demand through a series of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) and gather feedback and market reaction and use it to improve the next MVP until a product can with a high confidence rate can be released.

In order to drive digital transformations and innovation, Jitander says that organizations that are adopting Agile should try to coach, listen actively and recognize every win that people are achieving. Transformations are long and exhaustive, but this should be done collaboratively to succeed.

Besides, Arman emphasizes that DevOps complements the Agile frameworks by the integration of innovative design and development with stability and security of products through automation of the product delivery pipeline from coding, through stages of testing to deployment and release.

When combined, Agile and DevOps can transform the team’s working environments into a highly productive, very flexible, and lean structure capable of achieving large organizational changes with high success rates and low-risk outcomes.

Neil also points out that Digital Transformations are more than a series of technology projects. Hence, they require changing a company’s ways of working, which Agile and DevOps are a part of.

Neil also highlights that a company can have adopted Agile and DevOps and not have much innovation. According to him, these two methodologies don’t drive innovation, but they rather make innovation easier since they facilitate, small, rapid changes; this is often the way innovation is germinated.

 

The benefits…

At the beginning of their agile transformation, many enterprises will struggle because they are attached to their infrastructure and processes. However, there are many advantages that come with using both Agile and DevOps methodologies within a business.

Arman summarized a list of benefits to the business:

  1. Shorter value delivery cycles: As a joint benefit of Agile and DevOps, you can establish a faster and more efficient product and service creation and delivery process faster and more efficiently.
  2. A stronger culture of collaboration across business and technology: Agile – specifically Scaled Agile – breaks down departmental silos and re-groups the teams around the Value Streams. This allows the business and technology teams to collaborate and communicate in a dynamic and continuous environment. DevOps helps with improving business agility by integration across teams in the organization. This way all team members (business and technology), become owners of quality and timeliness of deliverables.
  3. Improved Customer Journeys:  DevOps can help organizations raise their deployment frequency by 200 times and reduce their recovery times by 24 times, which puts them in a strong competitive position in the market compared to other organizations. The DevOps automated CI/CD pipeline significantly raises predictability, reliability, and stability of the products, which in turn raises the quality of customer experience using them and leads to an upward shift in customer sentiment towards the business conducted by the organization.
  4. Promoting a Culture of Innovation: Agile and DevOps establish an enterprise-wide, fast-moving, adaptive, and incrementally evolving environment that can serve as a breeding ground of new ideas through the ease of experimenting with innovations in the market through Minimum Viable Proofs and Products and collection of feedback on customer reactions.

Neil adds that the benefits of Agile and DevOps can also include increasing software productivity, decreasing costs, increasing software quality, increasing employee morale, among others. He points out that Agile has become table stakes in today’s environment.

For Jitander, adopting Agile and DevOps brings diverse points of view into creative issues and thus, helps resolving them with collaboration. It provides a better structure for conversations between business and technology, between the product team and customers, and among the various functional teams across the enterprise.

 

…And the challenges

Leveraging Agile and DevOps in digital transformation brings a corporate-wide cultural change, which can raise resistance at many levels.

Arman emphasizes that a good start would be to look at teams’ compositions to see if there are any legacy walls between the Dev and Ops side that needs to be torn down. As we mentioned before, Development is designed to seek innovation and disruption while Ops wants stability and lack of change. Merging them into DevOps means having Dev innovate with plans on how to have a stable product that can be maintained, and have Ops stabilize the platform but maintain the needed Agility to change into a new stable model when needed.

Then, he continues, you need to scan through our existing infrastructure and application platforms to find legacy systems that have built up a significant technical debt for the organization over the years and will pose as a hurdle to the digital transformation plan. After this, you need to decide on what to keep and maintain and what to retire, and what to build fresh using API and Micro-Services.

Once we have the Agile teams using DevOps and have established a roadmap on how to shift our existing platforms to flexible digital solutions, Arman says, we can incrementally move forward through the transformation. We should plan to have a moment of pause and looking back at the end of each iteration, to inspect and adapt our effort for the next iteration with the needed re-alignment and corrective action items.

Moreover, Neil states that Agile (and DevOps) are more than adopting a set of ceremonies and doing a re-org. Indeed, many companies have made an investment in agile through training and restructuring and have not seen the benefit, since they have not committed to changing their culture.

 

Implementing Agile and DevOps

‘You only need to implement Agile and DevOps for the businesses you want to keep!’

Indeed, Arman says that the rising market turbulence and the threatening aggregate power of new disruptors swarming the market, all equipped with Agile framework and DevOps pipelines have made the combined power of these two frameworks a vital factor in the survival and growth of any organization in today’s world.

Hence, the competitive advantage of Agile and DevOps teams in responding to changing customer needs and market trends, while maintaining high-quality product delivery, is the best reason for any business to go through the necessary changes to establish and incorporate them into their digital transformation.

Arman believes that, if an enterprise wants to stay relevant in the market in the face of the rising power of rivals and shifting tides, there is no other available solution as effective as the integrated power of Agile and DevOps in maintaining their position in the market and help them grow with the flow of trends.

 

The future of Agile and DevOps

It is expected that the DevOps market adoption will rise beyond $12.85 billion by 2025.

Therefore, Arman highlights that 63% of enterprises consider Agile adoption as a key strategic priority. With about 68% of enterprises that have adopted Agile, they identified their main driving factor as achieving faster delivery and adjusting to changing customer needs.

With rapidly changing business dynamics and customer expectations, digital transformation is the only way to stay profitable and grow for any organization, he says.

‘Agile and DevOps are playing at the core of this process.’

Moreover, Arman believes that businesses will increasingly value Agile and DevOps, as they would allow for better functioning and higher productivity of hybrid product teams as the engine behind the customer value delivery pipelines.

‘We will witness a continued growth in adoption of Agile and DevOps as the platform for systems thinking, to drive strategic investments based on their target business outcomes.’

Furthermore, according to him, businesses are aware that, to improve the time-to-market of their product and remain competitive, they have to take a lean approach on a limited budget, and this can only be achieved through Agile and DevOps.

Hence, there will be a significant “Shift Left” across all businesses, where senior management will invest more in their development teams to guide the technical direction of the enterprise. This would then break the traditional top-down structure of organizations in the executive-developer chain of command and connection.

Neil also thinks that both of these methodologies will continue to adapt as the market changes. A key aspect is that they learn from the market and adapt accordingly.

Indeed, he continues, as more companies adopt Agile,  he expects that large frameworks like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) will continue to change in response. For Neil, these methodologies will move from the software development part of a business to other parts of the business, driving overall business agility.

 

Special thanks to Arman Kamran,  Neil Gardner, and Jitander Kapil for their insights on the topic!

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