Agile and DevOps, the Game Changers that Drive Innovation
The latest buzzwords on the lips of CEOs, developers, and businessmen are Agile and DevOps. But why are they so popular and what value do they actually bring to organizations?
Broadly speaking, both concepts include practices with the common aim of getting end-products out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Yet, to zero in on the targeted goals, Agile and DevOps work differently, employ various approaches, and function distinctly in a team-based environment.
Although many businesses are eager to take on these practices, it’s essential to make a calculated and well-researched decision before making the transition. In this article, we’ll provide an analysis of both concepts, the benefits, as well as what sets them apart, and our experience with implementing them.
The Agile methodology
The concept came to life in the 1990s as a response to the growing needs of the software development industry. In 2001, the Agile Manifesto was written by 17 independent-minded software practitioners who uncovered better ways of developing software while helping others to do it. In the manifesto, they introduce 12 principles and 4 values that would provide an overview of expectations in Agile development lifecycle practices. The values are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
Basically, it is a collection of methodologies based on the best practices at the time. It unifies extreme Programming (XP), an aggregation of Scrum and other heavyweight software development processes, to combine the most progressive and efficient approaches into a single set of principles. So, whoever applies any type of Agile methodology adheres to these values and principles that make up the Agile software development culture.
To better understand this concept, Tom Hall, a DevOps advocate and practitioner, explains: “Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that focuses on collaboration, customer feedback, and rapid releases… In an agile approach, some planning and design are done upfront, but the development proceeds in small batches and involves close collaboration with stakeholders.”
Here are six clear benefits that we can enjoy from incorporating this approach:
- Software can be remediated in real-time. Unlike the waterfall approach, which doesn’t move fast enough to meet customer demands, Agile encourages rapid and flexible responses to change.
- Focus on business value by continuously aligning development with customer needs and trends.
- Efficiently deliver the optimum high-quality software product through Sprints that allow teams to easily notice and respond to unpredictability.
- Transparency for all parties involved through user stories. They help achieve cross-team clarity on what to build, for whom, why, and when.
- Reduced risks leading to increased customer satisfaction.
- Predictable costs and schedules. Clients can more readily understand the approximate cost of each feature and each Sprint has a fixed duration.
The DevOps concept is more recent than Agile and arose due to the increasing need for innovation in the available rigid frameworks. For years, development and operations teams remained separate with different (and often competing) objectives, department leaderships, and key performance indicators, which would all lead to dysfunction and frustration.
The term DevOps gained popularity in 2007 and 2008, when the two communities (led by people like Patrick Dubois, Gene Kim, and John Willis) united and eliminated this pattern of siloed teams and broken lines of communication within organizations.
The principle of DevOps is to bring development and IT teams together, connecting the skills, tools, and processes from every facet of an engineering and IT organization. View it as “an evolution of agile practices, or as a missing piece of agile.”
At its core, DevOps is about creating a culture of improved communication and processes with better information sharing across teams and companies. It promotes a philosophy of agility, automation, transparency, communication, and efficiency.
In a survey of 500 DevOps practitioners, Atlassian found that 50% of organizations say they’ve been practicing DevOps for more than three years.
On the technical side, the advantages are:
- Faster resolution of problems because team members don’t need to wait for a different team to troubleshoot and fix the problem.
- Continuous software delivery as code changes are automatically built, tested, and prepared for a release to production.
- Less complexity because DevOps streamlines processes, generating efficient releases that ensure quality builds.
Business-wise, the clear benefits are:
- Features are delivered faster, which can lead to increased revenues.
- The operating environment is more stable and lowers costs.
- DevOps streamlines processes, generating efficient releases that ensure quality.
- Drives business innovation, increasing sales as well as employee and customer engagement.
What sets Agile and DevOps apart?
As we’ve explained, Agile and DevOps are not fundamentally opposed because their goals are the same: to improve and boost the productivity of a business. Yet, they follow a unique approach and contribute differently to the same purpose. The differences and similarities between the two manifest as follows:
– Agile concentrates the flow of software from ideation to code completion.
– Agile puts focus on collaboration between developers and product management.
– Agile provides structure to planned work for developers.
– Agile emphasizes iterative development and small batches.
– DevOps expands the focus to delivery and maintenance.
– DevOps includes the operations team.
– DevOps incorporates unplanned work common to operations teams.
– DevOps concentrates more on test and delivery automation.
Expert Network’s experience with Agile and DevOps
A couple of years ago, we began transitioning to Agile and integrated DevOps practices later on. With Agile, we organized courses so that all teams could familiarize themselves with the methodology and guidelines. This was necessary in order to make the right adaptations depending on ‘the profile’ of each project. We also held meetings where we would voice our concerns, the results obtained, and learn from each other to come up with appropriate solutions.
Integrating a new perspective wasn’t a walk in the park because it meant rewiring our approach and embracing many different changes. In addition, we also needed to be in agreement with our clients and explain to them why such an upgrade was beneficial to everyone. Luckily, once we were all on board and began enjoying the impactful, positive changes, there was no going back. Some of the improvements we have enjoyed:
- Tasks are better defined and easier to accomplish.
- Planning is more straightforward, making our releases more frequent and with faster-delivery feedback.
- With increased transparency, all parties involved have access to the roadmap and changes can be easily picked up and implemented.
In a similar manner, when we took a more hands-on approach to DevOps, we wanted to make sure the transition would be accessible, easy to follow, and accompanied by guidance and support. We were already on Azure, using cloud infrastructure for project management and provisioning the resources we needed. Still, fully embracing DevOps takes time, is a continuous job, and necessitates constant testing and adapting to come up with the best course of action for each situation.
Yet, initially, our main objective was to integrate certain practices that would ease and streamline the whole working scheme. We focused on the technical implementation of DevOps, holding internal presentations and meetings where we introduced the new requirements, tools, and how they could be included with each team. We created performance metrics to monitor how performant teams are, where they needed assistance, and how we could intervene to help. At the moment, we already enjoy faster releases, CI/CD pipelines, continuous integration with the aim of fully achieving continuous delivery.
We couldn’t neglect the cultural impact that comes with these technologies. That is why we are constantly building our mindset around psychological safety, how to enable autonomous teams, and rethink the team leadership structure to encourage the teams to work towards a common goal through their vision and values, mindful of their needs.
So far, we have shown high performance in technology delivery and, ultimately, we wish to maintain our high organizational outcomes that lead to our clients’ success stories. With each day that passes, we become better and better at understanding these practices and how to efficiently implement them to innovate and stay on top of our game.
All things considered, it is undeniable that both Agile and DevOps shook things up by breaking through traditional ways of tackling software development. Together, Agile and DevOps have a considerable impact on how individuals approach collaboration models and how effectively they implement the needed digital transformation.