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Why Should You Align Digital Transformation with DevOps?

Organizations are defined by their IT and investments in modern tech.

Information Technology (IT) is about managing a portfolio of investments that include time, money, people, data, and assets. Digital Transformation is ultimately an investment strategy. You take data from your existing investments (for example: investments A, B, And C) and use that to guide your next investments (investments D, E, F) with the intent to increase the value and speed it took to make that investment.

Data either grows in value or provides the value quicker. And more valuable data leads to better decisions.

One of the key tenants of Digital Transformation is that investments in modern IT solutions pay off faster with a higher return than any time or money spent on extending legacy investments. But how do you know when it is time to develop the retirement plan for any existing IT investment? Simply use the Greenfield test (also known as the Sunk Cost Fallacy test).

What is Sunk Cost Fallacy?

Ask yourself, "if I was to start-over, what would I keep in my existing portfolio?" That list of "keep" investments are clearly providing value to you. Everything else needs a transition plan! 

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What about Technical Debt?

IT investments have hidden soft costs that often arise out of expediency or ease. Choosing what may appear as an easier solution over a more strategic investment that costs more often yields to Technical Debt.  

Technical Debt refers to the additional costs to rework solutions as a result of a short-term investment. Technical debt is sneaky, as it is often untracked. Just like financial debt, it gets worse the longer it is unpaid.

Here are some examples of Technical Debt:

  • Student Labs for 3D Modelling/Graphic Design/CAD:

Our team works with several large education institutions who invested heavily into student labs for advanced design or media arts applications. These solutions often have higher hardware requirements than traditional laptops, desktops, or mobile devices. Labs tether all development to a geography. When the pandemic required all learning to be remote, administrators were scrambling to rework all student labs in order to support remote learning.

  • Low-Cost Storage Solutions

Our industry is awash in what may at first appear to be low-cost/no-cost (at first) simple storage solutions. While these easily accessible storage solutions can provide immediate (short-term) relief to capacity issues, these solutions are usually not integrated into any planned security, operations, or other strategic directions of the organization. The result is an untamed compounding management nightmare that threatens growth. The longer institutional data resides in such solutions, the more expensive the transition plan will be resolve it in the future.

How can you avoid Technical Debt?

Good investments should lead to better future investments. The lifecycle of each asset must be planned from design, development, to on-going operations, and security of the solution. Assets need more than just care and feeding. As a result, all of our partners have solutions aligned with the cultural shift away from “Waterfall” type deployment to DevOps/DevSecOps approaches. Let’s take a look at the most traditional methodology: The Waterfall.

What is the “Waterfall” Methodology?

The “Waterfall” methodology is a traditional/linear approach to solving problems:

  • Analysis/Assessment – The problem is defined. Requirements are gathered. Success criteria is documented.
  • Design – The solution is mapped out and aligned with the problems you are trying to solve. In my experience, the best designs start with an overview of the existing environment and highlight the major changes. The design team verifies that the solution meets the requirements gathered from Step 1.
  • Implementation – Once the design is approved by the stakeholders, then it is time to deploy and integrate the new solution. The deployment team verifies that the implementation matches the design.
  • Test/Validation – After implementation, it is important to validate, verify, and test the implementation to make sure that the implementation meets the success criteria of the design.
  • Maintenance – The deployment, implementation, and testing teams hand over the project to the maintenance/on-going operations team along with all documentation and any knowledge transfer. The project is marked as complete.

Picture1Figure 1-Waterfall Methodology

The challenge with the Waterfall methodology is that change can be slow and difficult. Digital Transformation (by definition) is about responding quickly to an accelerating rate of change.  

How can align DevOps with Digital Transformation?

Unlike the Waterfall method, DevOps embraces a looping approach that is never complete. DevOps (Or DevSecOps) is the idea that the process of managing Business Projects, IT Operations, Change Controls, and even Unplanned IT Work are all interrelated and integrated.

Your data is both input and output to a massive flow throughout the organization. DevOps is the cultural shift towards improving the workflow of decision making data (Input) into analysis tools to more quickly deliver valuable analysis (Output) for the next decisions (Investments). All stages of this process are built with the incorporation of security and governance of all data access.  

DevOps is NOT a technology or a technique. It is a cultural shift built out of the Agile software development methodologies. Unlike more traditional deployment methods, DevOps culture is based on the fundamental principal that no solution is ever finished, and no solution delivery is ever complete. The goal of these methods is to deliver solutions that are constantly improving and adapting to the changing needs of the organization.

It is said that “when you live your life as a hammer, you see everything else as a nail.” DevOps is often seen as a panacea to all that ails you. Want to learn more about DevOps? Stay tuned for future articles where we will dive into foundational practices of DevOps and primary data centers.

Don't forget to check out the other articles in our Digital Transformation to series!