Closing the gap between business and technology

Closing the gap between business and technology

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27% of final decisions regarding IT planning, spending and management are now made by someone other than the IT department. For a successful DevOps transformation, you need to have implementation come from both the top and the bottom. Here’s how…

For a successful DevOps transformation, you need to have implementation come from both the top and the bottom.

A recent survey by IT industry association CompTIA found that 27% of final decisions are now made by someone other than the IT department (i.e., the heads of other business functions such as finance, marketing, sales and logistics).

Within a bottom-up, grassroots approach, whereby engineering alone is trying to build a better continuous development pipeline, without the support from senior stakeholders, DevOps will only stay siloed in one area. DevOps can and does scale across whole organisations, the problem is that there will be disconnect between the business and development teams. Changes to the organisation and culture are needed to close the gap.

But how should you go about ‘bridging the gap’?

It sounds cliché, but it’s all about communication. Ensuring goals of both the organisation and the teams within it all have overarching and very strategic goals they can work towards collaboratively. Making sure every product is geared towards achieving that goal. Whether it’s to increase sales or click-throughs to a specific page of a website, it must be specific, clear and concise.

Organisations must bring the business and development teams together so they can build products that help achieve strategic goals, and there are a number of effective ways that can help achieve this.

  1. Impact Mapping

Impact mapping is a strategic planning technique that prevents organisations from getting lost while building products and delivering projects. It does this by clearly communicating assumptions, helping teams align their activities with overall business objectives and make better roadmap decisions.

2. Customer Dashboards

Another way to ensure your team is guaranteeing business and IT function buy-in is through custom dashboards. These show you a representation of where you are as well as the business value of the digital transformation. The best countermeasures to inaccurate communications are the mutually reinforcing pillars of automation and measurement.

Automated systems, like custom dashboards, enable better reporting of business metrics. Rather than relying on information that’s filtered upwards to executives, you have an objective measurement system to share across the business, helping everyone get onto the same page.

Meeting the strategic goals of the organisation is imperative. Dashboards are one of the ways we ensure that we are as transparent as possible when communicating our progress, inspection and adaption from the other two core pillars of Scrum Theory and should be adopted not just at the engineering and team level, but also the program and portfolio level. Mapping things at the start does not mean that the job is done, we must update the plan to take into consideration the competitive landscape outside the organisation.

3. Organisational Culture

Finally, organisational culture is extremely important when planning a Digital Transformation project. It often comes down to how your team communicates with one another that makes the biggest difference. Ensuring that your team plans workshops with business/IT functions to get the most value from the projects, and all stakeholders are kept up to date with new developments on the project will also help.

What have we learned?

With the two examples outlined, it’s clear that if you don’t get your business involved, the product team can easily go-off on a tangent. The business will be frustrated as the product won’t be servicing a business need, and objectives will not be fulfilled.

Communicating is key, without it both parties will become disengaged.

Cultural change has to come from the top, leadership must be bought into the transformation and motivated to make it a success. Those at the coal face, the development teams rarely need convincing, they understand the benefits of a DevOps culture and in most cases will always be your path to least resistance. The key to developing applications that release true business value is bridging the gap between the two, the development teams should be seen as part of the business, rather than a service set up to support it.

ECS Digital can help you close your business’ gap on your digital transformation journey, get in contact today to find out how. We held a webinar in November which explained how to get past the DevOps Deadlock within your company – watch now.

Sarndeep NijjarClosing the gap between business and technology
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How ChatOps drives innovation, transparency & collaboration in enterprise DevOps

How ChatOps drives innovation, transparency & collaboration in enterprise DevOps

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Since the dawn of the digital age, and even long before that, our culture has been fascinated by the prospect of being able to talk to computers. There’s no better evidence of this than in film and literature – indeed, just about every sci-fi universe is bound to feature at least one form of artificial intelligence (AI) as a central role: without KITT, Knight Rider would have just been a guy with a fancy car. Without HAL 9000, the crew of the Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey might have fared dramatically better. And without R2D2’s help, the Jedi prophecy would never have been kick-started and Luke Skywalker might have lived out his days as a simple farmer on Tatooine. In any event, a development that has been taking the DevOps world by storm in recent months is ChatOps – the practice of integrating ChatBots into a DevOps workflow. While it may still be a couple of years before it becomes sentient, there’s a lot to be said for implementing ChatOps in your delivery pipelines. In this blog, we’ll look at how ChatOps drives innovation, collaboration and transparency in enterprise, and how this facilitates good DevOps practice.

ChatOps puts a human face to automation.

ChatOps centres around conversation-driven automation. What this boils down to is that any command can be handled via an English-language ‘conversation’ with a ChatBot of your choice: from monitoring, to provisioning, to deploying code, to responding to security alerts and even making you coffee! And, while there are several freely available ChatBot scripts – the most popular being Hubot (Javascript), Lita (Ruby), and Err (Python), all of which are open source – it’s easy to customise them to work with specific plug-ins and scripts. This makes it easy to customise your ChatBot to suit the purposes of your organisation, or even a particular project. Ultimately, ChatOps abstracts the complexity of the process and allows complex automation tasks to be carried out with a simple, easily typed command. The upshot of this is that a single message sent to your ChatBot can accomplish what might take a significant amount of time – and, consequently, money – to carry out normally. This is also a bonus for non-technical teams by providing them with the ability to execute complex processes that previously they might not have had the technical skills to achieve.

ChatOps brings everyone’s work to one central location.

With ChatOps, wasting time trying to figure out which of your co-workers ran a particular command or whether the command was even run is a thing of the past – by using a chat client everyone’s work exists in one central place that is visible and accessible to everyone. This encourages collaboration among your team members and the inherent transparency ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals. The benefits to the overall quality of work and working environment are huge here – by bringing your entire team’s work together, there are almost limitless opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas across departments that might not happen if they worked in isolation. ChatBots also facilitate innovation in their own right – firstly, by freeing up time for your team to spend on developing new and innovative projects, and secondly, by providing a framework for innovation by creating plug-ins for the ChatBot itself. The only limit to how innovative you can be is in how far you’re willing to go in customising your ChatBot to suit your needs.

Don’t stagnate by taking ChatOps for granted.

It’s (hopefully) pretty clear from this article that ChatOps provides great opportunities for collaboration, innovation and transparency, but taking your ChatBot for granted could have the opposite effect. Remember that behind the ChatBot are complex processes that have been automated. Encouraging all members of your team to maintain the code and scripts that are in place as well develop enhancements to enable new processes to be accessible from the chat client will go a long way towards staving off complacency. Without this you would create a new sub team within your teams of people that can only execute ChatOps commands and not create or maintain them.

At the same time, new starters in your organisation will benefit from first understanding how the nuts and bolts of your processes work before moving on to using a ChatBot to execute those processes. Once again, this comes down in large part to the culture in your workplace, but bear in mind that using ChatOps should encourage the transparency and collaboration that are key elements of a DevOps culture, which ultimately helps to deliver better software faster.

ECS Digital is a DevOps consultancy with 12 years’ experience implementing DevOps solutions for companies all around the world. If you’re interested in finding out more about our approach and the unique insights we can offer into how to transform your business with DevOps, contact us to request a free DevOps Maturity Assessment.

Image Credit :www.phoenix.k12.or.us

Andy CuretonHow ChatOps drives innovation, transparency & collaboration in enterprise DevOps
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How fostering collaboration in IT builds more innovative teams

How fostering collaboration in IT builds more innovative teams

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There’s no better way to sum up the importance of innovation in the business landscape of the 21st century than to quote the late Steve Jobs: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Innovation isn’t exclusively a modern fixation, though – in fact, it has been the driving force behind every significant leap forward in technology, from the wheel to the printing press. In the modern business landscape, though, innovation has taken on new importance as a central goal of many forward-thinking companies, and the means for achieving it have practically come down to a scientific pursuit.

In this blog, we’ll look at cultivating a culture of collaboration in IT, and how this helps you build more innovative teams.

Treat your staff like they matter to you, and they’ll do the same in return.

Something that many businesses seem to forget is that you can’t have any hope of building a collaborative and innovative team without a foundation of mutual respect and trust. There are a number of ways to achieve this: being transparent with your staff about your business objectives and challenges, encouraging their input from an early stage, taking an interest in each individual’s performance, and understanding how the different members of your team learn and work best are all ways of showing your staff that they matter to your business. It isn’t just about making your staff feel appreciated, though. Involving team members in decision-making from the beginning of a project gives them a sense of ownership, and encourages your entire team to stay committed until the very last step, resulting in higher overall quality of the finished product.

Innovation should be intimately tied to your organisational culture.

For the most innovative organisations in the world, the ability to innovate isn’t an external feature only possessed by a select few of the top performers in the company: it’s an intrinsic feature of their company culture. To ensure that a culture of innovation permeates every facet of your organisation, you need to lead by example at the highest levels of management. A leader who is constantly seeking new and innovative ways of doing things inspires the rest of your workforce to follow suit, and rewarding staff for innovative ideas and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking wherever possible will go a long way. This doesn’t mean that the upper levels of your organisation need to be creative visionaries – by simply cultivating a culture that is open to innovation from the top down, you’re creating the foundation from which great new ideas can spring forth.

What should you look for when building your dream team?

Collaboration in IT depends not only on a variety of skills, but also a variety of personality types that work well together. For a team to collaborate and come up with innovative ideas and solutions, you’ll need to have an ideal mix of ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’. In a blog on innovationmanagement.se, the authors discuss “building a bigger box rather than trying to fit inside it.” For projects in which innovation is a key objective, it’s necessary to have a strong creative team in the initial brainstorming stages. However, creative thinkers are notorious for being less adept at project management – which is why it’s important to balance out the creative thinkers on your team with practical ‘doers’ who make sure that the creative work is met with the right amount of structure to ensure the work gets done. That’s what the authors mean by ‘building a bigger box’ – rather than encouraging your team to ‘think outside the box’ and then rein their ideas in to fit the criteria, try to build your teams in such a way that the sum total of their personalities, skills and working styles is greater than its constituent parts.

A closer look at the anatomy of highly innovative teams.

So, what are some character traits that you should look for when putting together your dream team? We’ve already discussed thinkers and doers as broad categories of the types of people you’re likely to have in your organisation, but let’s take a closer look at some common personality traits that facilitate collaboration in IT:

The self-starters

It is critical to put together a team that is self-motivated. This doesn’t necessarily mean every member of your team has to be a self-starter – it’s often enough to have a team leader who can inspire the rest of his or her team to take ownership for their work and become more diligent and pragmatic in their approach to tasks.

The out-the-box thinkers

This is something we’re used to hearing about innovators – Apple called them ‘the crazy ones’: the ones that draw outside the lines; the ones that ‘think different’. Creative thinkers are invaluable for any innovation project, but as we mentioned earlier, they aren’t capable of doing everything themselves.

The team players

Collaboration in IT is obviously dependent on members of your team working together. Conflict is inevitable – and, to a certain extent, it’s a natural and healthy part of a team dynamic – but innovative teams need to include members who can find common ground rather than reasons for confrontation. This is the one trait you’d ideally like every member of your team to exhibit.

The overachievers

To a certain extent, competition is a healthy and necessary trait of teams. The right amount of competitive tension in a team can push individuals beyond their perceived limitations and result in a much higher quality of the finished product. However, too much competition within a team can quickly become a disabling factor for less competitive individuals, so managing this is a constant balancing act.

Having a powerful business proposition means little without being equipped with the perfect team to conceptualise, develop and execute properly. ECS Digital is a DevOps consultancy with over 12 years’ experience in bringing teams closer together to create more innovative solutions for organisations all around the world. To find out more about the solutions we offer, visit our websiteor contact us directly.

Image Credit:David Didau

Andy CuretonHow fostering collaboration in IT builds more innovative teams
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