John Appleby, CEO, Avantra
As health experts attempt to come to terms with an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases across the nation in tandem with the roll out of the vaccine programme, businesses around Britain are in the process of updating their continuity procedures and disaster recovery plans as we embark on COVID’s second wave.
When you think of the enterprise at large and how COVID affects business, software developers and testers are typically seen as quickly adapting to the change of pace in IT. In the past nine months, we’ve witnessed SaaS adoption become a go-to platform for businesses of all sizes looking to ensure continuity and seemingly push towards innovation during these uncertain times.
To meet the demand, developers have taken on the task of working at rapid speed to configure, test and deploy advanced features and services to their clientele. This quickened pace, for some, has led to proper guardrails not being in place in many instances.
There are a few key ways to mitigate the pitfalls of continual innovation while ensuring developers and testers are applying robust strategies to combat the stress a pandemic can place on an IT team of any size.
Remember: Fail Fast Succeed Early
At its core, DevOps is the process of using development technology to solve operational IT problems. Having a well-defined strategy helps; however, it’s nothing without proper implementation and calculated risk. Both of these factors help your organisation achieve its goals in a shorter amount of time.
Microsoft is an excellent example of this – a colleague worked on a project where instead of testing one process at a time, they tested 30 different scenarios simultaneously to see which would be the better strategic fit for the organisation. They could have planned for six months; however, in three weeks, they could determine the next step in a shorter amount of time. Methods such as this begin with a strong innovation culture where everyone aligns on the same goals.
Additionally, access to funding also becomes essential, along with the ability to hyper-scale. Cost does become a factor; however, this method saves teams an extraordinary amount of time. The goal of failing fast in DevOps is not to increase the chances of failure but to encourage experimentation, making it a sure-fire way to bring products to market quicker.
Put the Cultural Shift into High Gear
Whether a company finds itself in crisis or not, leaders need to remember that tools are not the “be all or be all” of DevOps. Culture is. DevOps is not only a philosophy; it’s a term that promotes collaborations, creates culture, and lends to innovation. Innovation is often a term that scares companies or teams who may feel it is out of their reach, considering their current situation. However, consider this, the very act of innovation is trying. If you’re not putting yourself in the race, how does an organisation win?
From ideation to pilot testing, businesses need to understand you can try something without being “all in”. Innovation is everywhere and within every process. What keeps that culture alive and well is building an ethos of collaboration that leads to a team that not only thinks but believes innovation can happen. Culture becomes everything when your business starts to look for new and innovative ways to push itself and your clients further.
There is a caveat to this process that is important to point out. Often, leaders start by introducing policies and procedures to their team without providing a vision of the outcomes. A system such as this often leads to long term adverse effects simply because the underlying organisational culture is not healthy. Even during a global pandemic where budgets may be tighter, teams leaner, and innovation still the goal, there must be vision, transparency and effective communication to allow for proper implementation and execution. All of these components start with culture.
Scale through Automation
Working on a test automation strategy is the best way to set your business up for success. Alongside culture and collaboration sits automation, a key pillar of DevOps. Research shows, 60% of occupations have at least 30 per cent of constituent work activities that will be automated by 2030, globally. Historically, teams have been skeptical about automating their work and have leaned on the “I can do it myself” way of thinking and working. With COVID-19 creating a massive uptick in demand for IT services, teams’ pressure to perform has also increased.
For DevOps teams to successfully “scale up” right now, the implementation of continuous automation into the testing process is proving critical. As with any type of implementation, there are warning signs to consider.
As wonderful as automation can be, the process often creates a skills gap; however, this does not mean leaders should shy away from the automation process. Leaders must be aware of this and strategise on ensuring training opportunities are available to keep the margins narrow in this area.
The pandemic has reinforced that change happens swiftly, and companies must be able to flex and respond in the same way. While IT systems are built to extend and adapt, accelerating delivery cannot happen at the expense of business continuity.
Pilot testing amid a global pandemic encourages a culture of transparency, collaboration and experimentation that will empower teams to track inefficiencies at an increased rate.