Improving Processes with Agile and DevOps

Improving Processes with Agile and DevOps

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Technology is ever changing the way we operate in our lives and in business. Implementing Agile and DevOps practices have become increasingly popular in recent years as they allow businesses to build, test, launch, and monitor their applications in a quick and controlled way.

The software development lifecycle has many stages in which Agile and DevOps approaches are beneficial. We spoke to experts in these methodologies to gain better insights into what exactly Agile and DevOps are, and what successful implementation can mean for your business.

Agile vs DevOps: What’s the difference?

Before highlighting how to best implement these practices, it helps to understand exactly what they are and the differences between the two. The key difference is that Agile is about overarching project management and DevOps is about continuous integration and continuous deployment.

Hitesh Sharma, Agile Coach at Optus, further breaks down the key differences: “Agile starts with adopting the right mindset, keeping the customer first, and DevOps focuses on continuous delivery, deployment and integration of software applications.”

Sharma highlights how, when used together, Agile and DevOps create a unified team. “At Optus, Agile and DevOps are equal partners, especially for Digital product teams,” he says.

“Agile helps in bringing teams together, having a common goal, whereas DevOps pushes for faster delivery with higher quality and frequent deployments. With Agile, teams believe in self-organisation, whereas with DevOps, we introduced the mindset of ‘Build the Code, Own the Code, Maintain the Code’.”

“Agile at Optus is a continuous journey, where in the past two years, the DevOps skills and resources have been well integrated into our ways of working. This enables us to have a continuous flow of customer feedback, which is made possible with the integration of Agile and DevOps practices.”

Shivakumaar Umasudan, Senior DevOps Consultant, also talks about the relationship between the two. “Though they are different, the shared purpose of Agile and DevOps is to increase speed,” he says.

“Speed is gauged by continual assessment throughout the process. When you measure the speed, you will be able to accurately judge if your DevOps initiative is actually helping accomplish your goal or just another excuse to add a couple of cool tools to your inventory.”

Umasudan comments further that “Agile complements DevOps through a common process. Both processes work by splitting up a task into smaller segments and implementing small changes based on what the business values.”

The Benefits of Using Agile Over Waterfall  

If you’ve heard of Agile, you’ve most likely heard of the Waterfall methodology as well. Though it is now common to use a hybrid of the two, Agile has become the more popular choice.

Gourav Sharma, Technology Architect at Cognizant, breaks down why the majority of businesses prefer Agile. “As long as the right conditions need to be in place for it to function correctly, Agile has many variables that contribute to it being the preferred methodology. These are:

  • Flexible to adjust priorities and requirements: Regular involvement of the stakeholders provides the scope of adjusting the product to provide maximum business value and introduce changes even later in the cycle.
  • Time to market: Teams are focusing more on executing the deliverables rather than planning and documentation. There is still some level planning required like sprint planning, however, that helps to make the product more valuable to the business by adapting to the business’ changing needs.
  • Continual learning, adapting and improving throughout the process, thus bettering the product.
  • Allowing for innovation: As requirements are evolving over time, the flexibility Agile provides allows the developers to be creative and introduce innovation in their solution, resulting in a better product.
  • Reduced risk of failure: Failure risk is contained through predictability, as in every sprint there is a sprint feedback session or demo is given to the client. There is then the opportunity to adapt the solution as per the feedback received, helping the product evolve much better.”

With the development teams that use the Agile methodology having a 64% success rate, compared to just 49% for the Waterfall model, it is no surprise that it has become the preferred methodology.

Practical Tips for Adopting Agile and DevOps

Knowing what Agile and DevOps can do for you is one thing – executing them is another. Implementing new systems, no matter what they are, takes effort and commitment from everyone involved.

Zetong Huang, Systems Architect at ELMO, shares what he believes to be the best processes for integrating Agile. “When applying Agile practices, teams should be focusing on improving the end-to-end delivery of the product effectively. Utilise the power of automation, fine-tune the automating infrastructure set up and configurations,” he says. “Manual repetitive processes will make things slow. If the task needs to be repeated many times in future, think about writing CloudFormation templates, Terraform templates or scripts.”

Huang also shares his thoughts on how to successfully implement DevOps processes. “The right culture for DevOps requires communication and collaboration from both developers and DevOps teams,” he says.

“To work effectively, with a shared vision, the team will need to be united and work together. When a new project begins, it is important to be involving not only developers but also the DevOps team. Together, they can share the target and vision and with the proper communication along the way, teams will work effectively.

Justin Gilmour, Development Manager at Objective, has some sound advice for keeping everyone on the same page during an Agile project. “Most involved in the software development space are familiar with Agile terms such as Sprints, stand-ups, and retrospectives. These are some of the core practices for Agile and Scrum methodologies. These need to be performed well, consistently, and efficiently for an Agile team to be productive towards the agreed-upon high-level goals.”

Gilmour also breaks down who should be looking after what in an Agile project. “Developers and testers themselves are best equipped to know what the logical steps are to deliver a milestone,” he says.

“Estimations are best done by the team once work packages are understood by those who are to be working on it. Once these ceremonies are in place and the team members have the skills required and are committed to them, some very useful metrics can be used to make sure the team is on track, and guide team members as to what to focus their energies on.”

“Everything highlighted above is aimed at keeping the Agile team on the same page and working towards an agreed definition of value to the customer and to the business.”

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