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DevOps collaboration ushers in brave new world for IT ops

Large enterprises relate their journeys toward better DevOps collaboration, and why realigning their organization's processes and teams is as important as any new tool set.

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's clear IT pros will work with new tools under DevOps collaboration, but equally important are the new people they will work with as well.

In fact, large enterprise organizations that have been through a DevOps transformation say organizational design is a bigger change for most IT employees than getting used to the new tools they will use.

"Making these changes is painful," said Scott Horsfield, engineering director of infrastructure and DevOps at sporting-goods retailer Nike. "We're not going to jump from tool to tool -- we want to figure out processes and make it work."

In 2017, Horsfield said he's going to focus on the organizational changes to create efficient processes.

"That's the next step that we have to [take to] make our jobs more effective: rethinking how our teams are structured to get the results that we want," he said.

Breaking down dev and ops silos for most large organizations happens in stages, according to attendees here at DevOps Enterprise Summit. Often, this begins at the grassroots level. But sooner or later, it's driven by new leadership and an organizationwide realignment of teams into one of three patterns, identified by an IT Revolution whitepaper published this week: the matrix model, the products model and the adaptive model.

Target: From grassroots to new leadership

At Minneapolis-based mega-retailer Target, the early days of DevOps took place in 2012, with small clusters of change agents within the organization that began to create APIs to manage IT apps, according to a presentation by Heather Mickman, senior director of Target tech services.

From there, DevOps collaboration became a more widespread, grassroots effort among engineers at the company. Senior leadership became involved in 2014, and finally, in 2015, the company hired Mike McNamara as CIO, which brought about an organizational overhaul.

"He took a lot of the work that had been happening and amplified it across our organization, essentially setting the expectation that we will be an Agile, DevOps shop," Mickman said.

The major change that occurred under McNamara was the creation of product-focused IT teams that aligned with business capabilities, otherwise known as the product pattern of organizational design. In this model, cross-functional teams focus on how they support product strategy, rather than IT services.

"Now, I have a team that actually owns a product from start to finish and [owns] it in production as well," Mickman said.

IT collaboration: Stepping into the matrix

Other organizations chose to move to the matrix pattern of IT collaboration, in which cross-functional DevOps teams focus on delivery of IT services to business users. For example, American Airlines chose the matrix pattern after its merger with US Airways in late 2013.

American Airlines officials advised audience members to insert experts into development teams -- namely an architect, tech lead, program office and operations -- to create a full-stack group.

We get product operations feedback on a daily basis on how hard it is to run software and things that we need to improve.
Scott Prughchief architect and vice president of software development and operations, CSG International

At CSG International, matrix-based organizational changes under DevOps collaboration have hit the ops team harder than developers, said Scott Prugh, chief architect and vice president of software development and operations for the business services provider, based in Englewood, Colo.

In this matrix pattern instituted this spring, Agile development teams that had been created in 2012 were merged with product operations teams, as well as platform teams, to create service delivery teams that now build and run their own software in two-week sprints.

"We get product operations feedback on a daily basis on how hard it is to run software and things that we need to improve," Prugh said.

Toward the adaptive pattern

Ultimately, closer collaboration with business units is desirable, but realignment into a matrix pattern "gives people a way to focus," said a solutions architect for a major manufacturer in the Midwest, who asked not to be named, during a workshop session on organizational design.

Matrix teams are torn between the group and its IT service functions and the product and its value to the business, argued a director at a government contractor at the workshop, saying product-pattern organizations are more mature.

In general, a discussion group at the workshop saw a progression between the three IT collaboration patterns that organizations fall into when traditional silos are broken. The matrix model often comes first and most naturally, followed by the products pattern -- and, ultimately, the attendees predicted, the teams with the most mature DevOps collaboration will fall under what IT Revolution called the adaptive model.

In this model, a radical departure from traditional IT, even the CIO and CTO roles are pushed down into a fully nonhierarchical organization. Products and support services are only roughly separated, and the team realigns to adapt to changing business objectives and projects. Few organizations have reached this point yet, and fewer still have made a leap directly from traditional IT to the adaptive model.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Senior site editor Meredith Courtemanche contributed to this report.

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Which collaboration method has worked best for your IT organization's DevOps initiatives?
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Can you provide a reference to that white paper you mention "an IT Revolution whitepaper published this week: the matrix model, the products model and the adaptive model."?
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Hey David, Here's a link to the IT Revolution white papers: http://itrevolution.com/devops_enterprise_forum_guidance

The particulars about the different models are in the first download available: Evaluating organizational models with a DevOps lens. Hope that helps!
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