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The role of CIOs in fostering an agile and innovative DevOps culture

The role of CIOs in fostering an agile and innovative DevOps culture
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 19 May 2022

In today’s agile organization, the term ‘DevOps’ is used to describe a team’s use of Development, Operations and Project Management. The goal behind the DevOps approach is to develop the product in a short period of time and make it available for public use in an efficient way. To this end, DevOps relies on the symbiosis of two disciplines — Software Development and IT Operations — which has been essential to the paradigm shift from IT acting as a mere enabler to software development teams, to being an active partner for innovation.

The success behind each product or service rests on three pillars: agility, leading to success; collaboration, creating better environments; and innovation, resulting in a mature model. DevOps boosts integration and synergies across these three pillars. It is both a cultural movement and a professional practice that helps create the right conditions for continuously improving the value and maturity of the products, services, safety and systems.  Yet, DevOps success is not possible without a devoted Chief Information Officer. In particular, the role of CIOs in fostering an agile and innovative DevOps culture should not be undermined. To understand the role of the CIO in creating a DevOps environment that works, one needs to know the values, practices and strategies that empower DevOps in modern business environments.


DevOps Values and Strategies

In today’s business environment, a company’s ability to be agile and innovative is the key to success. For over three decades agile software development processes have proven their worth by helping organizations deliver products faster while achieving higher levels of quality. In addition, agile methodologies allow companies to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace by making changes to their applications without disrupting their business processes. DevOps adopts agile solutions and extends their application to IT operations going one step beyond software development. Specifically, under DevOps development and operations teams work closely together to ensure that software products are flawlessly developed and operate as planned. In this direction, DevOps promotes communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals. The goal is to enable teams that are responsible for different aspects of application development to work together seamlessly. For example, a developer can be working on an application while another team member works on its architecture or on the cloud infrastructure where the application will be deployed. Improved communication and better collaboration are key to delivering applications and services at a faster pace and with fewer problems.

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From a technological perspective, DevOps is supported by technology tools that help applying practices like continuous development and continuous integration. A prominent example are continuous integration servers, which help build, test, deploy and monitor applications across the entire software lifecycle. From a process perspective, DevOps leverages agile practices like test first programming and test-driven development. Moreover, it encourages the use of source code versioning tools and unit testing frameworks, as well as software design patterns like aspect-oriented programming (AOP) and domain driven design (DDD).


The role of CIOs

CIOs have a huge role to play in fostering a DevOps culture within the IT industry. They are expected to continue playing a key role in driving business innovation through technology in the coming years.  This is largely due to the changing role of the modern CIO. Where CIOs used to be responsible for IT, they now must focus on business outcomes. They are still responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency of IT, yet they also need to ensure that their teams are aligned with the business strategy of the enterprise. In this context, the adoption of DevOps practices is one way of achieving this goal.

As already outlined, a DevOps culture is based on collaboration between different teams, including IT and Product Development teams to foster an effective digital transformation of an enterprise.  CIOs foster the establishment of a collaborative culture between the members of different teams. They establish clear metrics for measuring progress and track them regularly by using business intelligence, dashboards and other visual tools. They also organize regular meetings with all stakeholders involved in a project to discuss progress and receive feedback from them. Moreover, they provide resources such as budget and people when needed by other teams.

CIOs are also responsible to set an example for their team members by working closely with other departments such as product or marketing teams. For example, they may be part of cross-functional project teams that include software developers, testers and business analysts. This helps them understand how each team works and how they can integrate IT operations into their daily activities more easily. In addition, they can get valuable insights into how their business colleagues work so they can provide better support when needed. For instance, they can improve the support they provide during development sprints. This helps reducing barriers between them and creating a sense of ownership for the software solution that is being developed.

In several companies CIOs participate in the company’s board and help ensuring senior management commitment during DevOps projects. This can be done by providing updates about progress made towards achieving business objectives during regular board meetings or by presenting financial benefits achieved thanks to DevOps initiatives during annual budget planning sessions.

Overall, in the current business environment, companies need to be agile and innovative to succeed. A DevOps culture helps them reach this goal. CIOs align DevOps practices with IT governance and the business strategy of the enterprise. They ensure that all IT activities comply with corporate policies. Furthermore, CIOs play an important role in the DevOps culture of their companies. They also ensure that DevOps spans the entire IT organization, thus benefitting the end users and company goals alike. In the future all IT managers should be more informed about DevOps strategies and be prepared to become powerful influencers of the transformation towards a faster, more productive delivery pipeline.

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