The keys to IT transformation success

The three dimensions of change behind a successful IT transformation

The DevOps movement has revolutionised software delivery and IT transformation in businesses here in Australia and globally. DevOps transformation is in demand across all industries and among Australia’s biggest companies.

Following its merger with Fairfax Media, Nine Publishing is leaning on DevOps to get of new productions and services quickly and in a cost-efficient way; and Vodafone Australia is introducing new software to support its 5G infrastructure.

Designed to combine software development with operations, DevOps has created a set of principles which deliver higher quality software and experiences. Like Agile, DevOps promises superior efficiency, greater speed, better results and a wealth of opportunities to increase an organisation’s competitive edge and gain sustained advantage.

There are DevOps success stories popping up all around us, from Ticketmaster’s global roll out transforming its 24/7 availability organisation with 14 different core ticketing products, to Netflix’s DevOps culture. CIO of US retailer Target, Mike McNamara, has said DevOps is a source to achieving a competitive advantage, removing natural resistance and fear of change within an organisation whilst maintaining productivity.

Despite the strategic benefits promised, implementing IT transformations continues to be a challenge for Australian businesses, due to internal complexities in organisational culture and the need to shift technological processes. Often companies are promised the end-result (a fast-moving, high quality, successful experience), but are not provided with sufficiently clear instructions on how to get there.

So, what does ‘success’ actually look like? A DevOps framework is not a one size fits all approach. Many executives may be tempted to just fit a popular framework across the company and expect an improved result automatically. However, if it was that easy, everyone would do it.

What’s the trick? DevOps is not a book that has a set of instructions. Rather, it is a unique interpretation of a set of principles and how they intertwine with the priorities of an organisation.

To help with a successful IT transformation, Accenture has outlined the following three dimensions of change required.

Creating the right environment

The right applications for the transformation must be identified. Selecting the correct technology vendors and systems integrator can help make the transition to real change easier, and more effective. A common place to start is to invest in automation for repetitive, manual tasks – checking off the continuous delivery requirement of the DevOps framework.

Automation will free up time for infrastructure experts to make improvements to processes, security, and the quality of the working environment. Automation is new and different, it keeps people on their toes and introduces creative tasks rather than repeating the same actions.  It also provides teams the opportunity to learn new skills and develop relationships with different areas of the business.

The people and organisational dimension

DevOps is founded on the idea that the development and operations team work succinctly and in harmony with one another. If tensions between teams start to unfold, there is potential for product quality to suffer. Organisations must take responsibility for ensuring all teams get along, whether providing support or escalating important issues. 

Work processes should be structured in a way that enhances the autonomy, purpose and mastery of all knowledge workers. A DevOps framework will assist in all three aspects, as well as provide organisational structure behind the transformation. Investing in people has shown to be a good stepping stone building for success and quality engineering.

Technological and architectural aspects

Continuous delivery and more advanced delivery patterns are two practices involved as part of a DevOps transformation. There needs to be an evolution towards microservices and successfully leveraging the cloud to guarantee suitable technological space for DevOps to take hold.

Migrating to the cloud is needed to stay responsive in the market and adjust to user demand quickly. Be careful with relying on data centres over cloud, as data centres are always going to constrain the ability to chop and change necessary hardware.

Migrating to the cloud can allow access and implement the latest services and hardware with a click of a finger. Organisations can revisit old hardware purchases or update to a new one. Organisations can change direction at any time and can get exactly what they paid for by scaling up hardware during peak times to ensure quality standards and customer satisfaction.

DevOps has a hand to play in some of the most significant IT transformations in Australia. Ultimately, success depends on a positive corporate culture, where poor results are not a reflection on a team or an individual, but the whole organisation. While larger companies like Vodafone or Nine may anticipate additional challenges, the switch to DevOps doesn’t need to be complicated and stressful for many Australian businesses.

Executives must reflect on the essence of their organisation and the problems they are trying to solve with an IT transformation. Resistance to change is often a major barrier to transformation, but it’s what is required to remain competitive. The key to this transition is to embrace change as it comes and for executives to understand where their company sits in the journey.

Mirco Hering is Accenture’s global lead for Agile/DevOps

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