What the heck is DevOps?

What the Heck is DevOps, Anyway?

What Innovators Need to Know about DevOps to Mitigate Risk and Accelerate Their Venture

DevOps is a term that’s kicked around a lot in the industry. Have you ever smiled and nodded knowingly when it was mentioned (Dev = Development, Ops = Operations), but secretly you had no clue what it is used for? This rapidly evolving approach to software development operations is a necessity in the time-sensitive technology product development market. It integrates people, processes, and technology to minimize tedious expenses and redundant tasks while allowing more time for investment in intellectual property development and market differentiation. 

In short, it is a blanket term used for describing the suite of software tools that are currently available that help development teams to:

  • develop software locally
  • test that software locally
  • share that work with a peer for peer review and testing
  • integrate automated testing into their local development environment
  • control the configuration of that local development environment
  • control how and when code is merged back into a collaborative environment that is also build and configuration controlled
  • promote that code, configuration and comments (the 3Cs) to a user testing, and ultimately production environment.

Common tools that you may hear referenced are:

  • Git / Github – Used for source control
  • Virtualbox/Vagrant – Used for local environment virtualization and configuration
  • Docker – Used for local environment containerization and configuration control
  • Chef/Puppet – Used for configuration control
  • Jenkins/TravisCI/Maven/Ant – Used for build/deployment orchestration

Corporate Innovators, Venture Capitalists, and Angel Investors alike all need to keep their technical teams focused on differentiation through intellectual property development and the creation of barriers to entry or competition. In a market where many startups and even long-established companies can struggle to achieve or maintain profitability and relevance the difference between failure and success often lies in how well your process, testing and development are aligned with the key value proposition of your Innovation Investment. Every minute and every dollar count toward making your next go/no-go decision. That’s why it’s important to take a hard look at where your time and investment dollars are being spent and to make sure they are being spent effectively.

One of the greatest opportunities for Innovators to improve the impact of their investment is to better understand the power of modern DevOps. It’s all about leveraging as much technical “low hanging fruit” as possible. Doing so lets you shift the balance of your investment spend from bootstrapping vanilla code and vanilla process to developing defensible barriers to entry and core intellectual property.

Beyond just the technical, DevOps means building a collaborative system in which key stakeholders are informed participants in the technological side of their business (by continually surfacing integrated builds of the product) and key engineering talent is focused on differentiating technical tasks and not redundant, low-value operational tasks (through code and pattern re-use and build/deployment automation). With a small amount of knowledge about what DevOps is and how it can be leveraged by an early stage venture or Innovation campaign, Innovators can be empowered to ask the right questions about the operations of their team. DevOps can unlock a much greater ability to direct the allocation of funds to have greater strategic impact. 

Implemented properly, a solid DevOps ecosystem can increase the number of successful software solutions created and improve the velocity with which these solutions can go to market. Ultimately, this means greater customer satisfaction and retention, more market validation and revenue, sooner, and a greater chance of venture longevity.

This strategic business philosophy is backed by solid technology, implementing key components in the cloud leveraging virtualized/containerized applications for local development as well as production deployment and elasticity to eliminate unnecessary on-site expenses and equipment as well as tedious and costly manual processes. We leverage GitHub, for example, (a Software as a Service (SaaS) tool for hosted source control that allows seamless collaboration amongst your team) and employ it’s tools for code cross checking / peer review. We have found that single process alone reduces our defect ratio by about 60%. Premium applications and tools allow powerful integration without the maintenance and internal requirements of an onsite system and we have banished the words ‘it works in my local’ from our development team. The purpose of all of these different tools is to take your repetitive manual tasks and replace them with automation, freeing up your talent to focus on creating tangible, market differentiating intellectual property. 

Of course, for automation to become a success, reliable systems must be established to manage these tasks. That said, we still have a role in our ecosystem for manual testing. The optimum scenario for any developer is a system of continuous integration and agile releases. While the ideal situation would be a Google-level process of automated continuous release and 100% test coverage, most organizations can’t afford the expense in an innovation environment to create that type of testing. In that case you may still need a flexible, agile, high-quality manual testing vendor as part of your DevOps ecosystem. At Elephant Ventures, we utilize a company we founded in our venture foundry called Ultranauts, a company that tries to manually break our software, detecting bugs, design and user interface defects, functional errors, and other discrepancies. As a silver lining Ultranauts is a social impact venture with an amazing mission, and I definitely recommend you check them out for your testing needs.

If you find yourself asking: “Why is this taking so long?” in your internal conversations surrounding Innovation projects. I’m willing to bet that how your team is (or isn’t) applying the best DevOps thinking, tools and processes is a big part of the answer. If you see your team getting stuck or off track while your innovation runway shrinks and suspect you need some DevOps infrastructure help, please contact us today. We can immediately start re-aligning and accelerating your Innovation team and get your Agile Innovation Pipeline to where it needs to be.

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