Digital Transformation Leader and Technology Trusted Advisor Eur ING, Adem Yetim IntPE FIET FBCS, shows how agile methodology and DevOps practices converge to accelerate digital transformations and increase innovation.

Business leaders are focused on meeting challenges and moving their companies forward. When it comes to using technology to improve businesses, some leaders focus so much on doing the same things better, that they ignore disruptive innovations. Companies risk being crushed by a new wave of technology. What can a company do? The answer: innovate and transform.

Companies that successfully harness digital technology to increase innovation have a significant advantage over their competitors. The UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) Business Innovation Survey 2021, found that:

‘Vendors and users of AI and data-driven technologies were also more likely to have innovated in the past compared to non-users. Thus, four in five vendors said that they introduced new or significantly improved products or services in the last three years, compared to just under three in four among users and less than one in two among non-users.

'Moreover, among businesses who innovated in the last three years, vendors (24%) and users (25%) were also more likely than non-users (15%) to say that their new or improved products and services were new to the UK market. A significantly higher proportion of vendors (45%) also said that innovations they introduced were new to the global market compared to users (32%) and non-users (16%).’

Clearly, to stay relevant in the modern market, companies may need to make radical changes, such as undergoing a digital transformation. The trend toward digital transformation continues and innovation is the driving force behind that trend. Institutions would do well to stop and ask themselves: What is digital transformation? What does a good digital transformation look like? And where are we on our digital transformation journey?

Digital change for the innovative organisation

The innovative organisation understands three key factors for success: time to market, quality and cost-effectiveness. Long-running software projects are not efficient, but must still produce a high quality product. Products that aren’t robustly tested cause interruptions, or don’t deliver as promised, are quickly dropped from the market.

A digital change will reduce the amount of time, resources and effort you spend on software development. Thus, when undergoing a large and comprehensive digital change programme, the organisation must consider three strategically important areas:

  1. Implementing measurable, intelligent, transparent and flexible infrastructures. Digital assets should be measured and transparent to understand their impact on performance and return on investment. Intelligent systems can prevent mistakes due to human error. Flexible infrastructures should be capable of supporting new product ideas and growing with your business.
  2. Fostering cross-team collaboration with cross functional teams. Dismantle silos and spread the competencies of the institution as equally as possible across various teams and departments. In other words, teams should include people with different work experience from different functional areas of the company. Goals and strategies must be clearly defined and shared with all the people they will affect, including the reasons for the changes.
  3. Prioritise innovation and efficiency over processes. Frequent updates and innovative solutions require creativity and flexibility more than processes.

What is digital transformation?

Every company is different with their own unique requirements, so we can’t use a one-size-fits-all method. However, in various examples, two important topics stand out: agile transformation and digital transformation with DevOps. We will now discuss how these two concepts can benefit a company’s digital transformation.

Digital transformations are often likened to a journey – and our first stop is agile transformation to change the way we do business. Another stop is DevOps transformation, where we change infrastructures. Using both methods on the road to digital transformation can wield powerful results.

An agile transformation for software development

Agile was developed to speed up business processes and launch products early on the market. The first step in agile methodology is to review how you currently do business.

For example, when a new feature will be added to a product, what stages does it go through? When starting a new project, what steps are followed? How are errors or requests from users managed? How long is the product delivery time? Processes such as these need to be analysed, optimised and transformed.

Some important principles of agile software development are continuous improvement and continuous delivery. For example, Kanban methodology is about learning from past mistakes and adopting continuous improvement as a philosophy.

Agile project delivery focuses on continuous delivery in small pieces with a slightly more experimental working method that responds to a constant loop of feedback and improvement.

Where agile meets DevOps

An agile transformation can be achieved without digital transformation or vice versa. For example, if you started agile transformation first, you will have had scrum meetings and run sprints at regular intervals. At the end of each sprint, you deliver the promised work.

But you can do this with traditional infrastructures, that is, without digital transformation; however, it requires highly skilled engineers to prevent human errors. Thus, the need for digital transformation arises and this is where agile meets DevOps. By renewing infrastructures with DevOps principles, you can quickly deliver quality products into live environments.

IT reimagined with DevOps

DevOps reimagines both the function and structure of an IT department to combine software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) so that coding corrections can be made faster, to continuously deliver high quality software. Companies using DevOps combine teams that were previously working in silos, such as application development, testing and quality assurance.

In DevOps teams using agile, developers, testers, platform architects and system administrators work together and share responsibility to move quickly from concept to final product.

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DevOps aims to digitise traditional IT processes. One example is dynamically configuring and provisioning applications, infrastructure and IT resources with a software-defined data centre approach. DevOps accelerates innovation by developing new code within a few hours, which shortens the time-to-market, with functional and operational benefits from automation of infrastructure processes, testing and deployment.

Continuous integration is another important DevOps principle. It’s a great method to track production metrics and test quality on a continuous delivery line with transparent and automatic processes to eliminate routine manual work and human errors. The result is delivering quality products, quickly and safely to customers.

DevOps speed is a measure of success in digital transformation. The 2021 State of DevOps report by Puppet found that ‘six out of 10 highly evolved organisations say DevOps is actively promoted.’ The report also showed that the majority of companies (78%) are at a mid-level range of DevOps adoption. Thus, on the digital transformation fast track, your path will inevitably intersect with the DevOps ecosystem.

In the fast lane with agile and DevOps

If your business is on a journey of digital transformation, remember that there is a fast lane. You can follow the path of DevOps and agile. These practices have been proven to increase productivity and efficiency, because employees can focus on their area of expertise and they have more time to innovate.

Costs are reduced – since both maintenance and new updates are handled by the same team. The result is frequent updates and new features that delight customers and keep you a step ahead of the competition.

When the strong and flexible work style of DevOps converges with Agile methodologies, it produces a common set of values, a corporate culture, that is more important than the technology.

Mentoring for change

Changing a company’s culture and organisational structure to increase efficiency and innovation is a long-term process and requires effecive leaders who all pulling in the same direction.

One strategic planning model that can help is McKinsey's 7S Model, which classifies seven areas of a company as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, and they are interconnected with the most critical element (‘shared value’) at the centre. ‘Mentoring’ must be a ‘shared value’ for businesses to weather the winds of rapidly changing technology trends such as AI, IoT, big data, RPA, blockchain, and DevOps.

By joining the BCS Career Mentoring Network (CMN) programme, you can connect with professionals who have already completed a digital transformation journey and others who are currently on the path. You can learn from their experiences, and share the insights gained from your own unique transformations.

Mentors are contributing to the changes in the global IT ecosystem and making a difference in the IT world. Please consider joining the BCS mentoring network to discover your own potential and inspire your colleagues on their journeys. While we may be more profitable when we produce, we only grow when we share.

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