Over the past few months we have been exploring the implications for IT and the business coming from the Puppet, “State of DevOps Report 2016”. A thread running through…

Building a bridge between the old and the new

Over the past few months we have been exploring the implications for IT and the business coming from the Puppet, “State of DevOps Report 2016”. A thread running through that report, echoed in comment across the technology sector, is that DevOps is as much about changing organisational culture as it is about new technology tools and techniques. That brings me to Gartner’s report on Bi-Modal IT.

In 2014 Gartner published a report that indicated a clear divide in IT organisations between Mode 1 environments, focused on the maintenance of legacy systems of record and Mode 2 environments, engaged in the development of new apps using agile methods and technologies. At the time, most commentators took this to mean that there were two distinct IT tribes. One, old-fashioned and involved primarily with the maintenance of legacy systems, the other, younger, more agile focused on the development of the new apps required for digital transformation. Whatever the truth in that, and recently Gartner have moved to explain that isn’t what they really meant, the reality is that many people do see IT operations as split into two distinct groups.

This might have serious consequences for the effectiveness of your IT operation. At the very least it creates a perception that Mode 1 is somehow second class. This hardly drives the sort of employee engagement that drives the best in class productivity seen in the Puppet report. Further, this will exacerbate the problem of attracting and retaining scarce DevOps talent.

To get over this I recommend you look at a book called “Dealing with Darwin” by Geoffrey Moore, and in particular, his chapter on “Repurposing Resources for Core”. If you can get past the fact that this is a book that looks at marketing product lifecycles there are some great insights for IT management trying to grapple with the dual issues of resource allocation and re-skilling.

The basic premise is that product, or in this case app development, moves in a clockwise direction from innovation and development, through deployment and enhancement into maintenance and ultimately, retirement. Too often the people involved in these phases move in a clockwise direction as well. The innovators and developers often get tasked with deployment. The operations staff get moved into maintenance and then often get retired along with the application.

The innovators and developers, who are aren’t suited for deployment and operations, leave. The operations people who get left without a product or app to maintain when it is retired are lost to the company completely when they are made redundant. However, if you detach the people from this clockwise movement and move them anti-clockwise you solve a lot of issues.

The innovative developers don’t get asked to run deployment and operations. They get reassigned anti-clock wise to work on the next innovation. The staff who had moved from deployment into operations can step back to pick up the latest app to be deployed. Similarly, the staff who had been maintaining systems and apps in the last stages of their lifecycle can be reassigned to operating newer core systems.

This ensures that staff are using their most appropriate skills, keeps them refreshed as new technologies come through and ensures staff managing end-of-life programs have a clear pathway to continued employment. It gets rid of any ‘us and them’ attitudes and seems to me absolutely in step with the aims inherent in the best-in-class DevOps approach advocated by Puppet.

We have been through this with several organisations. If your strategy is to affect a digital transformation of your business, but you aren’t sure how to take the first steps in making the cultural changes needed in IT, contact me by email (peter.borner@percipiencellp.com) to arrange a no-risk exploratory meeting. I am confident we can help. However, if, after this meeting, we don’t feel we can bring real value we will tell you so that we are not wasting your time and money.

by Peter BornerPeter is the founder and Managing Partner of Percipience llp. He is an entrepreneur and successful business leader with board level experience and senior leadership roles with global firms including Sony Music, British Telecom, Liquid Audio and Axispoint. He currently holds a non executive position on the advisory board for Rise-To and is active in the third sector with Rotary and The Rotary Foundation. His expertise includes technology diligence for M&A and advising firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies, Agile and DevOps.

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