Why product owners should choose DevOps

March 2018

Hands and paperDevOps: Progressive concepts in a fast-moving enterprise landscape

While the base concepts of DevOps aren’t new, since organisations, individual companies, and to an extent, product owners, have been trying to bring the developmental and operations sides of business together. However, in the fast-paced production landscape that we are currently living in, the idea is still quite fresh.

In the most basic sense, DevOps is a set of concepts which are based on the marriage of the classic Agile and Lean concepts, with the more recent integration of ideal development and operations collaboration. Practically speaking, it serves to streamline two very important areas, so that developers can have better control of their own working environment, and the entirety of the operations procedure can be overseen.

In this article we will be discussing the application, and indeed the advantages of this concept combination for one particular group of people; namely product owners. We are going to first see how the product owner can benefit from DevOps application, as well as determine the actual value of DevOps integration.

The product owner’s role

A product owner, basically, is an onsite salesman, in that they are responsible for the production process from the start to the true finish, which is when the product reaches the customer. In other words, a product owner is supposed to optimise the end value of the product, which is a result of the efforts of the production team.

Role of the product owner in the DevOps era

It can be said that the role of the product owner has been made more effective, in terms of the value that the end customer experiences. What this means is that the development team is able to better communicate with the product owner, which produces a clear outline of the various integral requirements of the product.

DevOps has allowed the development personnel to streamline their own processes, in order to better align themselves with the vision of the product owner.

DevOps has, over the years, proven to be more than just a tool for efficient deployment and delivery. It is a way to reduce the inherent complexity of the product management product, while also keeping the staff involved in the process happy. The latter is a cultural benefit which aids in the bottom line for the product owner.

According to a research-based report put forward by McKinsey, DevOps was found to have reduced the time it took to shift software from production to the market, to update the process cycle (complete with automation and baggage-reduction protocols), and finally boost creativity through communication efficiency.

Additionally, in a survey conducted by CA Technologies, 88% of 1,425 IT and line of business (LOB) executives already have or plan to adopt DevOps sometime within the next five years. This strong endorsement can be attributed to the greater demands on IT to deliver faster, and to the tangible benefits DevOps adopters are seeing - measurable results showing from 15% to 21% improvements. 

Reception of feedback and subsequent response

The delivery speed and its consistency is a major factor when it comes to the success of a product and it is a primary factor that contributes to how much the product is trusted. And since it has a direct contribution towards speeding up the entire supply chain - it is the first in line for DevOps priorities.

In the past, feedback would often take months to arrive, and when it did, the company would have to work towards a product roadmap that was often very inflexible and had to be adhered to for the entire year, or before new feedback could arrive. This presented a problem, since products would always be outdated in terms of user demand, which would cause a slowing down in terms of revenue growth.

With a DevOps setup, the customer feedback stays consistent and timely, using the IT Service Management (ITSM) and integrated sales system as a channel for arrival. All of the customer feedback needs to be captured in real time.

Product roadmaps are also quite dynamic in a DevOps setup, with any and all changes happening in real time. The execution of changes is not a departmental concept anymore in modern times, and every human contributor towards the delivery of the product is kept well in the loop.

Comparison to an era before DevOps

Product owners, in the past, used to function somewhat differently with regard to various processes in the supply chain, compared to the product owners of today. This is especially true for products that are powered by DevOps.

The following examples show some of the key differences in how a product owner worked before the advent of DevOps:

  • Before DevOps, the majority of the reliance would be on market research, which laid the foundation for what would follow in terms of product delivery. This is not the case today, as DevOps-backed product owners are currently relying on continuous feedback arriving on a daily basis from the customers’ perspective.
  • Before DevOps came onto the scene, the number of product releases would be limited. In the DevOps era there is no limit to the number of releases, if the company has a fully automated deployment pipeline and is capable of a continuous delivery process.
  • The product roadmaps used to be quite rigid in the past, with the focus being on execution, once the roadmap had been formulated. This is not the case today, as DevOps has turned the focus towards evolution of the roadmap, whenever the feedback from the customers is received, and as it is received (from an execution point of view).

Importance of ecosystem integration

An integrated ecosystem is better able to encompass all of the internal functions within it, as well as promote collaboration among departments, bringing relevant teams together to make delivery of the product a collaborative effort. To some extent, this can be applied to any company that is in operation, and it has been known to work for many a product manager, with the help of DevOps.

The product owner will also enjoy additional transparency in an integrated ecosystem with smooth running processes. The increased visibility will be extended to the feedback of the customers as well, and combined with the process observation, will help deliver the best results in terms of product delivery.

Conclusion

With the coming of DevOps, the developers, who were previously just cogs in the grand production wheel, are now integral and somewhat independent parts of the greater outcome. They are the veritable stakeholders who are responsible for the value discovery of each new item. For the product owner this is gold, since they can now better manage other internal processes, such as product backlog maintenance, with ease.

All in all, DevOps has tremendous advantages for the product owner, owing to how it has proven more beneficial than Agile, and perhaps the most applicable set of tools, in this regard.

About the author
Subramonian Krishna Sarma is a seasoned IT journalist with over 15 years of IT experience in Software development, DevOps & Automation currently employed with UST Global and working for one of the largest retail account in the UK.
 

Image: Getty/Weekend Images Inc.