Get faster

The tech space is flooded with vendors and thought leaders touting the need for two modes of IT delivery — one fast, one slow — often called “bi-modal.”

Nonsense. Forget any notion of two speeds — you just need to get faster.

For example, your company’s compelling mobile application relies on data housed in the legacy application that runs the business. Great user experiences require that all applications — not just cloud and mobile apps — be delivered faster.

This has a profound impact on your application strategy. Slow-mode IT is not going to enable your company to win in the age of the customer. But a business technology (BT) strategy — one focused on the processes, systems and technologies needed to win, serve and retain customers — will, because it is designed for speed and agility.

Your customers demand it — and your business priorities are shifting because of it. In fact, a 2015 Forrester Data study of global business leaders shows three customer-obsessed priorities at the top of the list: improving products/services, bettering the customer experience and addressing rising customer expectations.

Digital nirvana is fast-paced and cannot tolerate slow-mode IT. To meet and even exceed those customer expectations, you must master three dimensions of DevOps: at the top of the pyramid is people, at the base process and technology.

Once upon a time, siloed organizations focusing on specialized roles operated in relative isolation from one another. Today, delivering great customer experiences requires organizations to closely and seamlessly collaborate across roles. The good news is that your business is ready to fight back the disruptors; in fact, Forrester predicts that 2016 is the year customer-obsessed business leaders shed cumbersome processes for agile ones that work at the pace of dynamic, empowered customers.

Flat, lean, responsive organizations deliver faster. Organizing cross-functional product teams that are dedicated to the project eliminates handoffs and wait time that cause delays and increase cost. Eliminating role redundancy will get you to the finish line faster, too, and it’s a good opportunity for team members to broaden and develop skills so that the team is increasingly self-supporting the application delivery cycle.

Traditional delivery methods are rife with handoffs and lag time waiting for things to get done. DevOps shatters bottlenecks and accelerates delivery by using lean practices like value stream mapping to see where those bottlenecks, unnecessary handoffs and waste occur, providing a road map for improvement. Different teams will have different constraints and bottlenecks and will need to improve in different areas. Focusing on two-speed IT obscures this; everyone needs to improve, just in different ways.

Stop wasting time building things no one wants; instead, work in small increments, gathering frequent user feedback about how well you’re doing meeting their needs. Companies that are taking this initiative have stopped wasting time and effort building the wrong products because they are no longer guessing about what customers want. They form hypotheses about what customers want and then they deliver in very fast increments to test those ideas to deliver the capabilities that their customers actually need.

Companies — and disruptors of traditional delivery models like Amazon, Netflix and Etsy — release software in cycles as rapid as many times per minute. What these companies have figured out is that making changes in very small increments is nearly risk-free, and the larger the change, the riskier it becomes. The key to making incremental change is reducing architectural coupling by using APIs, and using feature toggling to enable capabilities to be turned on and off when customers are ready for them. Once freed from the tyranny of release coordination, different teams and lines of business can deliver value at the speed customers demand, unconstrained by internal coordination processes.

Standardizing and automating your environments also helps. Every application development and testing effort needs clean environments on demand, regardless of delivery frequency. Standardizing also reduces production incidents and frees operations professionals to focus on higher-value work.

Your DevOps journey starts now. Embracing DevOps principles means embracing continuous improvement as well as continuous development. Leveraging technology and making it a differentiator in the age of the customer is all about embracing BT to get faster and ultimately delight your customers.

Kurt Bittner is a principal analyst and Doug Washburn is vice president of product management at Forrester Research.


By Kurt Bittner, Doug Washburn

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