There’s a lot of talk about DevOps these days. As with most buzzwords, it can be difficult to identify the signal through the noise when discussing what DevOps is all about. This post helps do just that by addressing the following:

  • What is DevOps?
  • Why should companies care about DevOps?
  • How are DevOps and innovation related?
  • How can companies start on the path to DevOps enablement?

What is DevOps?

DevOps is the combination of people, processes and tools working together within an organization to deliver higher-quality software more frequently. Simply put, it’s about development feeling the pain of operations, and operations feeling the pain of development. We like the analogy of DevOps “smoothing down the wall of confusion” that exists between development, test, and operations.

More often than not, people tend to confuse individual DevOps techniques with DevOps itself 1 For example, when we talk with companies about DevOps we typically hear responses along the lines of, “we recently stood up Jenkins (continuous integration server)” or “we use HP Quality Center for testing automation, so we’re doing DevOps” or “DevOps is basically continuous delivery, right?” DevOps is much more than an individual technique! It’s not just a few tools working in concert to automate tasks. It’s the processes that tie the tools together as well as the skill sets and organizational models that solidify the new ways of working brought upon by DevOps.

Why should companies care about DevOps?

Because every company is (mostly) a software company. Therefore, companies must establish software development (and its associated skill sets) as a core competency. Companies should care about DevOps because when done correctly it can produce higher quality software in less time. Higher quality software means better digital products and services that meet and exceed the needs of customers. Faster-time-to-market means more customer/user feedback and less time focused on shipping software. So why should companies care about DevOps? Because impactful customer experiences require it. Because operational efficiencies demand it. Because business survival depends on it.

(For folks who need quantitative convincing on the value of DevOps, check out this report from Puppet Labs. The numbers are staggering.)

How are DevOps and innovation related?

So DevOps can help companies deliver high-quality digital products (Continuous Intelligent Digital Products) to market with speed and efficiency. Got it. Does this mean all companies that enable DevOps are innovative? Not necessarily. DevOps in and of itself is not a silver bullet. Combining DevOps capabilities with data science, user experience, and product management skill sets enables a company to deliver value to customers quickly, improve experiences in a predictable manner, and evolve digital products over time to align with KPIs. The coming together of these skill sets is where true innovation occurs.

There are a lot of opinions about testing & learning, getting through the build-measure-learn loop quickly, etc. This all works great when companies are exploring product market fit, figuring out which products/projects to invest in and build out. Companies serious about continuous innovation cannot leave this mentality in the early stages of product development. Its just as important once that product is in production to have the ability to iterate in real time (or very close to it). In most companies a quarterly, monthly, or even weekly deployment cycle won’t cut it. Customers demand more – and their attention spans are dwindling (especially relative to goldfish). DevOps can give companies a fighting chance to deliver experiences to customers that evolve and improve in real time, to pace with the ever-changing needs of an increasingly fickle digital customer. In this sense, DevOps is a critical ingredient to innovation within the enterprise.

How can companies start on the path to DevOps enablement?

The path to DevOps can be a daunting endeavor for enterprises. Impacting traditional ways of working requires serious cultural change. And cultural change is the toughest kind of change to enact. To help our clients get on the path to meaningful change, we discuss DevOps through the lens of lean innovation. It’s all about defining small-batched initiatives that cut across tools, processes, and people. Grouped into themes that ladder to KPIs, small-batched initiatives


1. High-level techniques that bring DevOps to life: continuous improvement, release planning and control, continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous testing, and continuous monitoring and feedback

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product