Woman DevOps Green

6 Ways Organizational Culture Can Limit DevOps Success

February 16, 2024
Bryan Robison

Successful DevOps is built around three core components: people, processes, and tools. The glue that holds all three of these elements together is your organization's culture, and having any of them out of balance impacts how your teams deliver customer value. In this article, we discuss the most common cultural issues that hold companies back from achieving DevOps excellence and how to overcome these challenges.

Problem #1: Too Much Emphasis on DevOps Tools

Having the latest and greatest DevOps toolchain is exciting, especially considering the remarkable speed of innovation in technology. In just a few years, we've seen many advances in configuration/infrastructure as code, security scanning, build and deployment automation, monitoring, and AI. 

However, DevOps initiatives often fail because organizations place too much emphasis on rolling out the most cutting-edge technologies. They should instead prioritize refining and demonstrating the efficiency and impact of those tools, ensuring that they properly support processes, improve customer value, and accelerate time to market.

Rather than being highly dependent on your tools, shift your focus to where it matters most: your people. While choosing the right DevOps platform for your organization is important, teams should also concentrate on improving communication and collaboration both upstream and downstream and with each other.

Problem #2: The Siloed DevOps “Team”

DevOps is meant to break down the silos between the development and operations teams. However, an all-too-common scenario is when organizations create a separate DevOps team that is dedicated to bringing teams closer together. Instead of doing the latter, a new silo emerges. 

This independent team is assembled to define the toolchain and develop processes, which are then forced onto development and operations teams. Rather than working together to solve problems, development and operations teams perceive the provided solution as too cumbersome, restrictive, or slow, and they end up implementing their own tools and processes.

Tearing down these types of silos requires strong technical leadership and establishing clear goals. Whether you're building a single product or several products, development and operations teams should come together under a singular focus and develop a DevOps process that works across the entire organization.

Problem #3: Teams Are Imbalanced

Another issue we’ve seen is when software teams lack a good balance of necessary skills, and they end up relying too heavily on outside teams or people for support. Instead of having a team of cross-functional people, some teams are made up of only developers, testers/QA, or infrastructure engineers. We’ve also seen teams that are all seasoned, veteran engineers while another team is full of people fresh out of college.

Successful teams benefit from a mix of skill levels and perspectives, with team members working together to design new features and solve problems. This way everyone shares responsibility and works towards a common goal, resulting in higher quality products, increased productivity, and happier teams. 

One way to enable this within your organization is to establish communities of practice, which are small groups of people who are empowered to establish the processes and procedures for a given technology, service, or methodology. Communities of practice bring people together with different backgrounds and skill sets, which promotes shared learning and continuous improvement.

Problem #4: Trust Is Nonexistent

Often teams are stuck waiting for approvals from external boards that are far removed from the development process, or rigid checks are in place that slow progress down. Leadership holds on too tightly to releases, which prevents customers from receiving updates. There are also power grabs and turf wars amongst the members of a team or between teams in the organization.

All of this distrust and fear hinders innovation and prevents teams from achieving their goals. Moreover, it also leads to poor employee engagement and high turnover.

We must model good teamwork by giving teams ownership and autonomy and helping them visualize their process as an end-to-end venture. Teams need to be trusted and empowered to make decisions and implement changes without having to go through a lengthy approval process. Team members benefit from being recognized for their individual contributions and the team's collective effort.

Problem #5: Feedback Loops Take Too Long

Piggybacking on the trust problem, teams that wait too long to receive feedback from testers, stakeholders, and their tools struggle with missed deadlines, slow performance, and extended release cycles. This can lead to less frequent releases, larger change sets, and a higher probability of work slipping through the cracks. 

When negative feedback is received, it's often taken personally, or there is too much weight placed on the stakeholder that gave the feedback. This leaves the team feeling forced to make unnecessary changes, or on the other end of the spectrum, they are resistant and refuse to make changes. 

To provide teams with faster feedback, automate whenever possible and consider replacing formal review steps and change approval boards with peer review during the development process. Practice continuous improvement by implementing continuous testing, continuous integration, and continuous monitoring to quickly identify and correct issues.

Problem #6: Leadership Is Top-Down

Does your leadership team communicate via directives, or is there too much focus on planning at the org-level? If so, you may be stifling innovation from the start.

Instead, DevOps leaders should help build and nurture successful teams by taking a step back. To achieve a shared vision, leaders need to empower teams by prioritizing learning and encouraging creativity through experimentation and collaboration. Leadership’s job is to motivate teams by promoting curiosity and reminding teams that failure is indeed an option. 

Praecipio's Approach to Achieving DevOps Success

Successful DevOps involves much more than a well-architected toolchain and automation. It also requires a thorough understanding of your organization's people, processes, and culture. 

Here at Praecipio, we can help you maximize customer value by connecting your software delivery performance with your organization's strategic goals. Our approach starts with a conversation and our DevOps Maturity survey, which enables our team to understand where you are on your DevOps journey and how we can help you get to where you want to be.  

Whether you are just starting out or already have experience under your belt, Praecipio can help your organization implement DevOps practices. Whether it's a leading aerospace and defense company or one of the world’s biggest media organizations, we’ve guided companies from various industries through their DevOps journey. 

Reach out to our team to learn more about how to achieve DevOps excellence. 

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