How ChatOps can build a DevOps team structure without silos

A successful DevOps team structure has less to do with eliminating corporate silos and more to do with overcoming the workflow boundaries they create.

For most businesses, DevOps implementation challenges emerge not in identifying what needs to be done, but rather the how. The general consensus is that by doing away with siloed teams, an enterprise can increase sharing and collaboration, and therefore, expedite the production cycle. But there’ll always be certain obstacles that can't be overcome by basic restructuring.

In fact, a recent report by Atlassian and xMatters shows too many businesses aren’t doing enough to enable collaboration. Their research noted that while 41% of respondents are investing in DevOps, only 17% could report their company provides open-information available for cross-functional teams in the form of wikis or chat room applications. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as 80% of surveyed companies confirmed development and operations teams share tools in some fashion. This suggests most companies are at least on the road to an integrated DevOps team structure.

Elinor Klavens, a researcher at Forrester Research, claims that restructuring from functional roles to product teams still won't address the problem of siloed development and operations teams. In reality, she says, DevOps has less to do with eliminating silos and more to do with overcoming the boundaries they create, and this can involve new tools.

"Silos are not going anywhere," says Klavens. "Instead of breaking down silos, organizations must identify and remove hurdles to collaboration."

One way to do that, she says, is ChatOps. For the uninitiated, Forrester has a formal definition of ChatOps: "The extension of a chat platform to enable collaboration and decision-making within one virtual environment. ChatOps merges human conversation with automation through custom configurations, integrations, and operational bots."

By merging disparate channels of communication into a single chat room, says Klavens, a record is created that not only captures context but also creates an audit trail.

"ChatOps helps large organizations shift their culture towards DevOps tenets of improved collaboration between individuals and teams, understanding failure as an opportunity to learn, and accountability for product quality," says Klavens. "When incidents are managed through ChatOps, DevOps teams are able to perform faster, better, blameless postmortems."

Given that DevOps is often described as a journey, making sure that all parts of the business are on the same page is imperative to successful DevOps implementation, she adds.

"[Enterprises need to] measure practitioners on customer experience outcomes, ensure they can visualize the state of work, and conduct internal surveys to ensure executives and practitioners have a shared understanding of DevOps maturity," she says.

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