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Not too long ago, developers and operations personnel rarely interacted. Developers hid behind their computers, and operations staff scurried around looking for ways to cut costs or attract new customers.

Eventually, someone discovered the importance of DevOps, a philosophy that requires developers and operations personnel to work together to increase quality and shorten the development life cycle. Enabling teams to automate and streamline the software development process, DevOps tools are crucial because they facilitate continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). These tools help bridge the gap between development and operations, fostering a collaborative environment where code can be built, tested, and deployed rapidly and reliably.

According to Statista, as of 2022, nearly half of all companies surveyed are building a DevOps culture instead of relying on Agile and other traditional methods.

In this article, I look into the foundational principles and strategies for fostering a robust DevOps culture within organizations. What best practices streamline development and operations and nurture collaboration, efficiency, and continuous improvement across teams?

The Pillars of DevOps Culture

Merging the activities of your operations and development teams isn’t always easy, but it’s feasible if you understand and embrace the pillars of DevOps culture.

Collaboration and Communication

For a DevOps culture to succeed, developers and operations personnel need to collaborate frequently. Therefore, open communication is a must. You don’t have to share your deepest, darkest secrets, but you do have to share information about current and future projects with everyone on the DevOps team.

Example

Example

SureView Systems, a Tampa-based software company, used the DevOps approach to move toward a SaaS model. After switching to Microsoft Azure DevOps, employees had a much easier time collaborating, partly due to the number of new tools and templates available. They also found it easier to focus on continuous software delivery.

Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD)

CI/CD automates certain aspects of the software development process. Here’s how each component works:

  • Continuous integration: CI takes the code developed by multiple people and integrates it into a single project.
  • Continuous delivery: CD focuses on producing software applications in short cycles, which allows SaaS companies to release software at any time. Continuous delivery tools help
  • Continuous deployment: Continuous deployment involves releasing code changes automatically. This aspect of the DevOps methodology reduces the lead time to push new features to end users. Continuous deployment tools are
EXAMPLE

EXAMPLE

In 2020, Qentelli helped one of its clients solve a common DevOps challenge. The client struggled to implement effective quality checks for the CI aspect of the CI/CD model. Qentelli consultants recommended using Checkmarx to scan source code early in the software development lifecycle, making it easier to identify potential vulnerabilities.

Automation and Efficiency

In a DevOps culture, team members rely on automation, making it easier to reach shared business goals. Automation increases efficiency by reducing the time it takes to complete each phase of the development lifecycle.

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What are the Benefits of a DevOps Culture?

Transitioning to the DevOps methodology requires a significant cultural change, but it’s worth the effort. These are some of the most common benefits of DevOps:

  • Increased product quality
  • Better utilization of valuable resources
  • Frequent software releases
  • Reduced complexity
  • Increased stability in the operating environment

Overcoming Common Challenges in Adopting DevOps

Understanding basic DevOps principles alone doesn’t lead to a successful DevOps culture. Before you achieve continuous improvement, you must know how to overcome challenges.

Breaking Down Silos in Tech Teams

An organizational silo is a department that operates independently and doesn’t share much—if any—information with other departments.

In DevOps, the name of the game is shared responsibility. You can’t afford to have engineers and operations personnel withholding information from each other. To encourage team members to adopt DevOps practices, implement these tips:

  • Introduce new tools for collaboration and workflow management.
  • Create shared goals so every team member feels responsible for the company’s success.
  • Use feedback loops to incorporate employee feedback into new processes.
  • Get buy-in from company leaders before you try DevOps implementation.

Managing Rapid Integration and Tech Changes

Switching to the DevOps methodology requires a real cultural shift. As a result, team members may find it difficult—at first—to manage rapid integration and keep up with all the changes. Consider providing additional training or paying for staff members to obtain additional certifications before you attempt the transition.

Balancing Speed and Security

The faster you introduce a new product, the faster it generates revenue. That’s why many DevOps teams are always looking for ways to reduce time to market. Although speedy development is important, you also need to think about security. If you release a product too early, it may have serious security flaws.

Example

Example

Altaz Valani, the Director of Insights Research at Security Compass, recommends asking for input from employees, vendors, and other stakeholders. If you spend most of your time in the executive suite, it’s easy to overlook potential software engineering or security concerns. Asking for input ensures that you don’t overlook anything important.

Measuring the Impact of DevOps Culture

Whether your company delivers microservices or offers several cloud computing applications, you need to know that the DevOps methodology is working as intended. One way to assess performance is to track key performance indicators. Use DevOps metrics to determine if your program is as successful as you expected.

  • Length of software development lifecycle
  • Change failure rate (percentage of failed deployments compared to total production)
  • Deployment frequency
  • Average code changes in a pull request (PR metric)
  • Mean time to recovery (how long it takes your team to recover from failed products)
  • Amount of code revised or deleted within 30 days of creation (aka rework rate)

Long-Term Benefits for SaaS Companies

Any change to your IT operations has short-term and long-term consequences. If your new software delivery process doesn’t succeed right away, we recommend that you stick with it. Here’s why:

  • Reduced costs: The DevOps methodology typically reduces costs by eliminating inefficiencies. Even if you invest in the best DevOps tools, such as Kubernetes or Docker, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
  • Continuous improvement: When you use the DevOps approach, you rely on a network of interconnected applications to engage in continuous integration and delivery. These applications are known as dependencies. With the right toolchain, you can quickly achieve your goals for continuous improvement.
  • Shorter time-to-resolution: TTR refers to the time it takes a DevOps engineer or another one of your team members to close a support ticket. Embracing DevOps gives your team members the tools they need to provide better service to end users.

Best Practices for Sustaining a DevOps Culture

You know what DevOps is and why it’s so important. But as G.I. Joe says, knowing is only half the battle. Now, you need to implement your newfound knowledge. When you’re ready to take the leap, consider these DevOps best practices.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

Continuous learning is a hallmark of the DevOps approach. Your team members should always be learning something new, from how to prevent errors to the best way to increase system security. For best results, give your team the freedom to experiment with new tools and techniques.

Innovation is another significant component of building a DevOps culture. If you’re innovative, you can provide more value to customers and other stakeholders. To reap the benefits of DevOps, encourage employees to think outside the box.

Finally, team members need to collaborate effectively before they can create innovative solutions to complex problems. Consider scheduling a team retreat or incorporating team-building activities into your weekly meeting.

The Future of DevOps in SaaS

Although the DevOps methodology is nearly 20 years old, there’s always room for improvement. To prepare for future challenges, you must focus on building a flexible workforce and adopting new technologies as they become available. Here’s what to expect in the future.

DevSecOps

Some companies are now combining DevOps with security, an approach known as DevSecOps. Introducing security early in development is a great way to minimize risk. Look for DevSecOps tools that help to automate security functions without introducing additional vulnerabilities.

The Role of AI and Machine Learning

At some point, DevOps may transition into MLOps (Machine Learning Operations). The MLOps model replaces software engineers with data scientists, increasing the accuracy of the data used to train AI algorithms. Incorporating AI and machine learning into a DevOps culture can help you optimize your operations and predict industry changes before they occur.

Cloud-Native Technologies

Technologies like containerization, microservices, and serverless architectures are tailor-made for the cloud environment, offering unparalleled scalability, flexibility, and resilience. By leveraging cloud-native tools, DevOps teams can significantly enhance the deployment, management, and scaling of SaaS applications, ensuring they are more responsive to user needs and market changes.

Cloud-native technologies foster a more robust and dynamic infrastructure capable of adapting to the evolving demands of data security and regulatory compliance.

Want More?

As a SaaS tech leader, you should know that embracing DevOps gives you a real advantage in the marketplace. Companies of all sizes, including startups, are using DevOps to increase efficiency, speed up development, and improve product quality. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on how DevOps is changing the world.

Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders

As a data-driven content strategist, editor, writer, and community steward, Katie helps technical leaders win at work. Her 14 years of experience in the tech space makes her well-rounded to provide technical audiences with expert insights and practical advice through Q&As, Thought Leadership, Ebooks, etc.