I have already written about the importance of DevOps practices (or for that matter Agile technical practices) for Agile adoption and I don’t think there are many people arguing for the contrary. Ultimately, you want those two things to go hand in hand to maximise the outcome for your organisation. In this post I want to have a closer look at popular scaling frameworks to see whether these models explicitly or implicitly include DevOps. One could of course argue that the Agile models should really focus on just the Agile methodology and associated processes and practices. However, given that often the technical side is the inhibitor of achieving the benefits of Agile, I think DevOps should be reflected in these models to remind everyone that Software is being created first and foremost by developers.
Let’s look at a few of the more well known models:
SAFE (Scaled Agile Framework) – This one is probably the easiest as it has DevOps being called out in the big picture. I would however consider two aspects of SAFe as relevant for the wider discussion, the DevOps team and the System Team. While the DevOps team talks about the aspects that have to do with deployment into production and the automation of the process, the System Team focuses more on the development side activities like Continuous Integration and Test automation. For me there is a problem here as it feels a lot like the DevOps team is the Operations team and the System Team is the Build team. I’d rather have them in one System/DevOps team with joint responsibilities. If you consider both of them as just concepts in the model and you have them working closely together then I feel you start getting somewhere. This is how I do this on my projects.
DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery) – In DAD, DevOps is weaved into the fabric of the methodology but not as nicely spelled out as I would like. DAD is a lot more focused on the processes (perhaps an inheritance from RUP as both are influenced/created by IBM folks). There is however a blog post by “creator” Scott Ambler that draws all the elements together. I still feel that a bit more focus on the technical aspects of delivery in the construction phase would have been better. That being said, there are few good references if you go down to the detailed level. The Integrator role has an explicit responsibility to integrate all aspects of the solution and the Produce a Potentially Consumable Solution and Improve Quality processes call out many technical practices related to DevOps.
LESS (Large Scale Scrum) – In LESS DevOps is not explicitly called out, but is well covered under Technical Excellence. Here it talks about all the important practices and principles and the descriptions for each of them is really good. LESS has a lot less focus on telling you exactly how to put these practices in place, so it will be up to you to define which team or who in your team should be responsible for this (or in true Agile fashion perhaps it is everyone…).
In conclusion, I have to say that I like the idea of combining the explicit structure of SAFE with the principles and ideas of LESS to create my own meta-framework. I will certainly use both as reference going forward.
What do you think? Is it important to reflect DevOps techniques in a Scaled Agile Model? And if so, which one is your favourite representation?
Over the last year or so I have had lots of good robust discussions with other Agile coaches and one thing started to worry me. I heard “But that is not Agile” or “But that is not REAL DevOps” more and more frequently. While I agree that we should always strive for better and better performance, the absolutes seem to me counterproductive. Two topics close to my heart seem to cause this kind of reaction more often than others.
SAFe – The Scaled Agile Framework
There is lots of discussion on the internet about SAFe and why it is or why it is not really that Agile. Most organisations that I talk to are nowhere close to the maturity that you assume when you see the SAFe framework. I am sure that there are companies who are further down their Agile path and think that SAFe is very restrictive and old-school. I have to say that most people I talk to would be extremely happy if they could achieve the Agility that SAFe can provide. And it is a framework after all, a bit like a scaffold that you can use to move forward from the old waterfall ways into a more Agile enterprise without throwing everything out. And yes once you think that SAFe is not challenging your organisations and you see opportunities to become even more effective go ahead – push yourself further. For now I quite happy to use the SAFe framework within large organisations to help me speak a language my clients understand and to push them a bit further on their journey. I will have to admit that probably have not spent enough time with the other scaled agile ideas to judge them all – and perhaps writing this blog can be a motivation to do that. For now SAFe is my go-to framework of choice and even those who argue it’s not really Agile, I think even those would agree that many organisations would be more Agile if they had implemented SAFe than they are now – and that’s good enough: For now!
So many organisations and projects I encounter do not have the right technical practices in place that allows them to deliver solutions effectively. Practices like Configuration Management, Automation of Build, Deployment and Test, and Environment Management I think belong under the big headline of DevOps. So when I then talk about DevOps practices with peers at conferences and describe that in large organisations I often recommend a DevOps team to start with, I hear “But that is not what DevOps is about”. The so often quoted cultural barriers between Operations and Development in large organisations makes it simply impossible in my view to embedd an operations guys in each development team. And to be honest there are often many more development teams than operations folks who could be embedded. So why wouldn’t I then create a team with representation from both sides to begin with and to get the best guys into that team to solve the difficult technical problems. After all that what Google has done with their Engineering Tools team. I think that is a valid step and yes perhaps afterwards we push this further, but for now most organisations that I have been working with can gain a lot from good practices being implemented through a DevOps team. Having a DevOps team does not mean we don’t want to change the culture, it just means we want to do this one step at a time.
Picture: Perfect by Bruce Berrien
taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/bruceberrien/with/384207390/
under Creative Commons license