Why are large enterprises failing at DevOps transformations?

men conversing while standing at their computers

I present to companies every day and tell a version of this story to illustrate why we believe ServiceNow can make a difference in the DevOps space. My message is simple but effective: In most large enterprises, DevOps is broken.

Effective, because the message almost always elicits a visceral reaction from the audience. At organizations that claim some DevOps success, people tend to take offense; at enterprises where DevOps transformation success has clearly been a struggle, I get smiles and lots of knowing nods.

But the fact remains DevOps is broken.

My perspective comes from discussions with many ServiceNow clients and industry analysts, who spend most of their days gathering information about how well their clients are transforming their organizations through digital transformation, Lean/Agile/SAFe, Cloud, and DevOps.

A common theme in these conversations is  that many companies that have attempted a DevOps transformation have seen no significant improvement to their release cycle. While many have transformed their teams and their tooling, and perhaps even allow developers to use a fully automated continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline and to write and build code quickly, the broader delivery lifecycle remained bottlenecked.

For example, most organizations in that situation still have not figured out how to automate their security and compliance functions. I tackled this in another blog, where I wrote about how companies can be quick to claim success on Agile/DevOps transformations even though they haven’t optimized their entire end-to-end value chain for software delivery.

Also, worth noting is that the 2019 DORA report quantifies deployment frequency as one of the four key performance indicators for measuring DevOps success.

The facts and observations collectively form the basis of my claim that DevOps in most large organizations is broken. We set out to verify our findings from multiple customers and analyst sources. We grouped the findings into three major reasons why DevOps is broken:

Legacy Process – Digital Transformation

  • DevOps is designed for digital transformations but stumbles in a world clogged with legacy IT policies and processes.
  • Despite many improvements, service management processes are still highly manual or not designed with the speed of DevOps in mind.

Lots of Data – Few Insights

  • While most DevOps tools provide loads of data and metrics, there is no over-arching system of value stream management to create actionable insights.
  • It’s not unusual for companies have 25 or more tools in their DevOps toolchains, which leads to the fracturing of relevant data and manual processes to synchronize information.

Developer Downtime – Inefficiencies

  • Developers are not spending enough time writing code; instead, they’re stuck in meetings and with administrative tasks that kill creativity and efficiency.
  • A recent survey from Activestate found that 38.8% of developers spend only 2-4 hours a day programming.

More than ever before, organizations need an Enterprise DevOps Management platform to help scale the DevOps efforts to a broader adoption rate with higher success to transform the end-to-end software delivery channel.

In response to these findings, we have provided a vision that focuses on the following high-level solutions to these DevOps challenges:

    1. Improve agility and overcome outdated roadblocks

    Eliminate wasted cycles for developers through out of the box integrations, removing administrative work, and reducing the friction of IT processes.

    2. Provide visibility into DevOps impact

    Report on DevOps impact and identify bottlenecks by helping management correlate pipeline data across continuous delivery processes and multiple teams.

    3. Deliver a central hub for DevOps transformations

Make your full DevOps toolchain investment more effective by centralizing tools and encouraging preferred behaviors.

Focusing on these three key areas allows an organization to streamline all the work that prevents development teams from achieving their throughput and agility goals. Automating the governance and security mechanisms that keep the company safe and customers happy is a central part of the equation.

The result is that key applications become more reliable and available while providing the highest quality of service to their customers.

A key example, which multiple companies are now adopting using ServiceNow DevOps, is the ability to ensure successful, automated change management. This is done by connecting the ServiceNow platform to the CI/CD toolchain and allowing the tools to automatically create their own changes in the Now Platform.

Capturing end-to-end insights and analytics allows us to speed-up and deliver more successful changes – with zero human intervention.

DevOps has never been fully successful at scale in large enterprises because of the incompatibility of traditional service management disciplines. If you’re in a heavily regulated industry, you may have a head start. You likely already have the necessary,  well-defined controls in place; you just need to automate them.

By providing Enterprise Service Management to the DevOps space, I believe we can achieve the goals and promises of DevOps at enterprise scale.

For more information, check out what we are doing in the DevOps space here.



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