Pilot Testing DevOps in a Pandemic

Content By Devops .com

Savvy organizations are using the pandemic to drive innovation by pilot testing DevOps. As health experts brace for an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases across the nation and vaccine distribution ramps up, many states and cities are still implementing significant measures to reduce the virus’s spread. As shutdowns impact cities coast to coast, organizations are updating their business continuity processes and disaster recovery plans for COVID’s next wave.

Software developers and testers are typically perceived as being able to adapt quickly to changes and the fast pace of IT. Since the beginning of the pandemic, SaaS adoption has become a go-to platform for businesses of all sizes looking to ensure business continuity and enable innovation during these uncertain times.

To meet this demand, developers have worked at ever-increasing speed to configure, test and deploy advanced features and services to their clientele. This quickened pace, for some, has led to the abandonment of proper security guardrails.

There are a few key ways to mitigate the pressure and risks involved in this accelerated environment, balancing continual innovation with ensuring developers and testers are applying robust security strategies.

Fail Fast, Succeed Early

At its core, DevOps is the process of using development technology to solve operational IT problems. Having a well-defined strategy helps; however, it’s nothing without proper implementation and calculated risks. Both of these factors help your organization achieve its goals in a shorter amount of time.

Here’s an example. One of my colleagues worked on a software development project where, instead of testing one process at a time, they tested 30 different scenarios simultaneously to see which would be the better strategic fit for their organization. They could have planned and tested, one scenario at a time, for six months; however, in three weeks, they could determine their next step in a much shorter amount of time. Methods like this begin with a strong innovation culture where everyone aligns on the same goals.

Additionally, access to funding also becomes essential, along with the ability to hyperscale. Cost does become a factor; however, this simultaneous testing and fail-fast methodology saves teams an extraordinary amount of time. The goal of failing fast in DevOps is not to increase the chances of failure, but to encourage experimentation, making it a surefire way to bring products to market quicker.

Put the Cultural Shift into High Gear

Whether or not a company finds itself in crisis due to the pandemic, leaders need to remember that tools are not the magic bullet of DevOps; culture is. DevOps is not only a philosophy, it’s a mindset that promotes collaboration, culture alignment and lends itself to innovation. Innovation is often a term that scares companies or teams, who may feel it is out of their reach. However, consider this: the very act of innovation involves trying. If you’re not putting yourself in the race, how can you win?

From ideation to pilot testing, organizations need to understand that they can try something without being “all in.” Innovation is everywhere and within every process. What keeps the culture of innovation alive and well is building an ethos of collaboration; that leads to a team that not only thinks but believes that innovation can happen. Culture becomes everything when your organization starts to look for new and innovative ways to push your business and your clients further, successfully.

There is an important caveat, though. Often, leaders introduce policies and procedures to their team without providing a long-term vision of the outcome(s). This often leads to long-term adverse effects, simply because the underlying organizational culture is not healthy. Even during a global pandemic, where budgets may be tighter, teams are leaner but innovation is still the goal, there must be vision, transparency and effective communication to allow for proper implementation and execution. All of these components start with culture.

Scale DevOps Through Automation

Working on a test automation strategy is the best way to set your organization up for success. Along with culture and collaboration, automation is a key pillar of DevOps. Research shows 60% of occupations have at least 30% of constituent work activities that will be automated by 2030, globally. Historically, teams have been skeptical about automating their work, and push forward with an “I can do it myself” way of thinking and working. COVID-19 created a massive uptick in demand for IT services, and teams’ pressure to perform has also increased.

For DevOps teams to successfully “scale up” right now, the implementation of continuous automation into the testing process is critical. As with any type of new technology implementation, there are warning signs to consider.

As wonderful as automation can be, the process often creates a skills gap; however, this does not mean leaders should shy away from the automation process. However, leaders must be aware of this and come up with a strategy to ensure training opportunities are available to close these gaps.

The pandemic has reinforced how swiftly change happens, and that companies must be flexible and respond quickly just the same. While IT systems are built to extend and adapt, accelerating delivery cannot happen at the expense of business continuity. Pilot testing amid a global pandemic encourages a culture of transparency, collaboration and experimentation that will empower teams to track inefficiencies at an increased rate.

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