Shahin Mohammadkhani, Executive Director, Information Technology, Architecture, Sony Pictures Entertainment
In the age of digital transformation, companies are radically changing business and organizational activities to fully leverage technological advancements such as cloud, microservices architecture, CI/CD pipelines to efficiently address scaling requirements. However, the key to a successful change is Digital Innovation, which refers to a sudden spark of creativity and inceptive actions that lead to implementing new technologies. Innovation requires people.
The qualities that make Digital Innovation so attractive – such as speed, agility, efficiency, are well-suited for the hyper-fast-paced and ever-changing digital business environment.
But continuously innovating and transforming isn’t as easy as it may seem. Many leaders face challenges — one technological and the other involving organizational processes, structure, and, most importantly, culture.
The first challenge is all about re-designing IT architectures to speed delivery of innovative products and services, improve market position, and create operational efficiencies. Complicating this effort are the older, purpose-built systems still in use in many enterprises that can’t directly be ripped out because they even service mission-critical needs.
The second challenge shares the same objective – speed and agility in the digital era – but centers on eradicating the cultural behaviors that may be deeply embedded in the company’s organizational fabric.
Companies are often surprised to learn that the second can be a more formidable obstacle to a successful digital transformation.
Still, organizations keep functioning in siloes, which counters the flexibility that digital Innovation can provide.
For example, adopting a public cloud allows organizations to make significant strides in overall data projects, application security, and overall performance.
The cloud initiative provides the IT enterprise more excellent choice over workload management and becoming a strategic partner with the business stakeholders.
Yet many companies still operate in functional siloes within IT that run counter to the greater flexibility that the technology provides.
Take the development, testing, and deployment of new applications. Companies today can take advantage of the public and private cloud to weave new applications and services quickly and seamlessly.
However, many companies are still stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire that relies on the “waterfall” model of software development, in which a project flows downhill from event to testing to quality assurance to integration to production in sluggish, rigid stages.
How DevOps can eliminate bad cultural behaviors
This is why DevOps adoption is so crucial to digital Innovation. By breaking down walls between development and operations, DevOps enables the software to be developed in shorter cycles and deployed into production faster. But it requires a horizontal view of the organization that goes against decades of IT thinking.
To give teams a good feel for DevOps processes and tools, CIOs should first set the vision, evangelize, and crowd source ideas of implementation from their most trusted architects. Then IT leaders need to begin pilots with significant but non-business critical applications. This approach will not only “force” groups to speak with each other, but it is the foundation of a cultural change, where everyone works towards a common goal.
Following the pilot period, the processes can be scaled up to apply to additional applications and products. Please do not take DevOps lightly. DevOps is a reflection of culture as much as it is about its tools. Having short deployments that are automated speaks very highly of the overall perception of the enterprise. At this point, it is vital to have a solid DevOps and operational automation strategy and implementation to ensure repeatable and reliable deployment pipeline processes.
While CIOs need to tackle significant cultural and organizational challenges, leveraging the DevOps and cloud for digital Innovation also requires some crucial technology decisions.
For example, a complete, clear inventory of existing systems and processes needs to be done, and decisions made as to whether current applications and data systems: a) stay where they are and are maintained, b) are moved to cloud architecture and frameworks, perhaps through PaaS or another application tooling, c) sunsetted and retired, or d) re-implemented as cloud-native applications.
Orchestration automation is a valuable tool in allowing the existing systems to continue running seamlessly while investing development and operational resources toward the new or re-architected systems.
By adopting the right approaches to technology and bringing fresh thinking to organizational factors, CIOs can achieve great results by marrying two of today’s mega-trends: DevOps and digital Innovation.