The DevOps Mindset: Basic Principles

Vijay Kumar | August 03, 2020

DevOps is about achieving the right mentality, one that allows for the constant enhancement of a company’s value stream (all the steps taken from the beginning of a value creation until the delivery of the end result). It’s a high-level perspective that leads to a more efficient collaboration between development (programming), operations (system administration), and quality assurance (QA). 

The key is to adopt flexible workflows between all three departments. But how do you achieve this? Essentially, you need to get the following principles right.

Shift Left

Imagine a timeline for your software engineering, one that begins with an idea and a plan to achieve it. It progresses from left to right. Traditionally speaking, many tasks in the pipeline are performed in later stages (such as testing). Now, one of the principles of DevOps is to invert this tendency and instead of waiting until the end of the process, these tasks are performed as early as possible. It’s part of the DevOps philosophy: the sooner an issue is addressed, the better. For example, waiting until the last minute to test software means that it will be all the more difficult to fix any problems that arise. If an error is identified as soon as it happens, it is a lot easier to rectify.

This Shift Left principle aims to establish an environment that focuses on prevention rather than detection. Identifying issues as early in the process as possible means they can be dealt with as soon as they make an appearance. By shifting left, you significantly lower the probability of errors reaching the client. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, as the saying goes. For the client, any issues that were fixed before the product went ‘live’ never happened. In this way, any potential disaster can be prevented before it has any chance to manifest. 

Failing Fast

A DevOps mindset means you are not afraid to fail. Continual experimentation, taking risks, and learning from experience is how breakthroughs happen. Mastery can only be reached through constant practice and repetition. A DevOps mentality is all about failing fast in order to learn fast. Early failure pushes people to improve in real-time. This failing fast model encourages resiliency: there’s no way out but through.

Although this DevOps principle embraces setbacks, this doesn’t mean team members do so alone. A supportive ‘environment for learning’ needs to be established so a team can feel safe to fail. It’s key to switch your mentality to see mishaps as opportunities to learn. This way of thinking brings positive effects to the whole organization and optimizes performance overall.  

Always Evolving 

In a nutshell, evolution is a continuous improvement over time. The main objective of any software company is to optimize the value stream in order to take productivity to the next level. However, it’s not about reaching a destination and sitting back to relax - DevOps is a constant journey. The search for areas of improvement and innovative techniques never ceases. This is why it’s so important to define it as a mindset, one that should permeate the entire perspective of a company. All stakeholders are constantly provided with information and feedback in order to improve their skills when it comes to delivering products. This, simultaneously, moves strategic business goals forward. 

To apply this principle, the use of KPIs (key performance indicators) plays an important role. These align with the goals of your particular business; for example, things such as quality, velocity, and/or efficiency. KPIs lead to continual evaluation of a firm’s delivery system and supporting technologies, all within the context of what is important for the company. Changes and improvements can then be made accordingly, producing better outcomes. 

The DevOps Path

Overall, the objective is to combine the work of development, operations, and QA, implementing best practices and technologies to deliver products faster and more efficiently while always ensuring quality. DevOps is the glue that holds the whole operation together, all its different parts functioning independently but always working in tandem. This fluid work dynamic within an organization is the new standard. Being able to deliver quick releases that respond to demands or problems is now a basic requirement in software engineering. By implementing flexible workflows, DevOps is able to seamlessly deliver without team disruption.

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