DevOps at ITpoint: Our experiences so far

2. May 2019

In early March 2019, ITpoint started using DevOps. Not only has DevOps changed the way we work, it has also changed our organisational culture and had a direct impact on our collaborations with clients. Time to have a look at how it’s going so far.

Agility, autonomy and self-organisation—these words come up a lot when talking about DevOps. What kind of company doesn’t want to be agile and have autonomous and self-organized people on its teams? This is where DevOps comes in.

DevOps is radical
DevOps is not a tool, software or technology. It’s not a methodology or a process. It is a corporate culture with certain principles to help us become more efficient. DevOps, whose name is short for «development» and «operations», originally comes from the world of software development. DevOps teams take a holistic approach to both development (building systems) and operation (operating systems), thus assuming responsibility for their subarea and end-to-end services as a team. Apart from a few basic rules, the teams are free to organise themselves as they see fit—as long as they get the job done.

What do we aim to achieve with DevOps?

  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Improve collaboration within teams and across teams
  • Improve budget compliance in projects
  • Carry out tasks on schedule
  • Increase efficiency of problem solutions

Four streams
The DevOps implementation at ITpoint can be divided into four areas:

  • Organisational structure: Until now, our delivery organisation was organised in a more traditional manner, with a service desk, operations and individual engineering teams, all of which were structured according to departments. Our service desk is still our «SPOC» (Single Point of Contact) for clients, but we have transferred the operations employees to the engineering teams and defined the DevOps teams from there.
  • Methodology & Tools: Basic rules for planning, prioritising and communicating tasks have been developed, and roles have been redefined and solidified. Each DevOps team uses a Kanban board via a tool called Trello to visualise the work backlog and progress.
  • IT Service Management Processes: Existing ITSM processes, as well as project management procedures, were checked for their DevOps «compatibility» and adapted where necessary.
  • Culture: Without a doubt, the most difficult, but also the most important aspect is to change the way our employees think (i.e. a mindset change) and to make this change sustainable. Since ITpoint has always supported and encouraged independence, initiative and autonomous working, the switch to DevOps has been a major change for many employees. Awareness workshops, training courses, team workshops and plenty of one-on-one conversations have helped to gradually guide employees into the DevOps culture.

A first field report
About two months ago, we had the DevOps Go-Live at ITpoint, and all of our teams are on track. The Scrum Masters (as coaches of the DevOp teams) have been a positive force. Being able to visualize all of the team’s tasks has proved very helpful—most of the time. But it has also revealed shortcomings and sparked a few controversies. Overall, the switch to DevOps for all plannable tasks (changes, service requests, projects) has gone surprisingly smoothly, but there is still room for optimisation when it comes to addressing complex incidents (which cannot be planned).

We know that this is just the beginning and that implementing and optimising DevOps takes time and patience. As the saying goes—it’s about the journey, not the destination!

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