How IT Leaders Need to Rethink Project Management in the DevOps Era

Using DevOps practices changes the way teams approach projects.  Instead of a long planning process and software build that progresses linearly from team to team, DevOps prioritizes speed and agility.

IT leaders need to adapt to a new way of managing projects in the DevOps world.

How DevOps Changes Project Management

In the traditional project management process, key stakeholders meet to discuss project timelines and deliverables. Gantt charts and formal meetings take place at regular intervals.  When the development team finishes the code, the operations team gets to work.  In some cases, it then gets passed on to the security team.  All of this leads to lots of meetings and a lot of “wait time” while other phases of the project get completed.

This “waterfall approach” is a top-down methodology that means software builds can take months or years before being deployed.

In DevOps, software builds can happen rapidly and be deployed quickly.  Updates and new releases happen on a continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) schedule.  Fixes are deployed as soon as they are ready in a seamless manner.

Josh Collins, technology architect at Janeiro Digital, explains how businesses are always pushing to get project done faster and with more accuracy. While DevOps technologies and processes are a key driver of these goals, they don’t replace the need for knowing exactly what you are doing with them. Strong project management practices are still needed to keep projects on pace across teams and dependencies.

The DevOps approach is more about delivering an MVP (minimal viable product) with the core features required for deployment.  From there, new features are added based on user feedback as soon as possible.

In DevOps, it’s all about agility.  Development teams and Operations team work together throughout the process.  Large projects are broken down into chunks or micro-services.  This allows for multiple chunks of code to be developed at the same time.  Each chunk is compiled and tested daily.  When it’s complete, it’s sent to the main repository.  Everyone works off the same version.

Fewer formal meetings happen. They are replaced with constant hands-on discussions.

How IT Leaders Need To Evolve

In the DevOps culture, it’s all about getting to working software as rapidly as possible and making course-corrections or updates whenever necessary.  For IT leaders to manage projects, they have to evolve as well.

Information moves quickly.  Code chunks change rapidly.  Software testing happens nightly.  IT leaders have to have real-time visibility into what’s happening.  The value and validity of your information can change (or expire) in minutes or hours.  It’s critical for team members to have access to reliable real-time information at all times.

This means continuous monitoring and management of your network and system, along with responsive ticketing and controls.  Whether you handle this internally, or with an RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) solution, you need to be proactive to spot issues before they become problems that can slow you down.

A Continuous Loop

Think of the DevOps cycle as a continuous loop:

  1. Build.
  2. Plan.
  3. Integrate.
  4. Deploy.
  5. Operate.
  6. Feedback.

Rinse and repeat.

IT leaders will need to have more direct contact with customers or key stakeholders in order to get feedback than in a traditional build.  This feedback loop is critical to the development process and meeting the needs of stakeholders or customers.

End users get initial releases more quickly but also enjoy continuous integration with new features that they want.  This can be a significant advantage over the linear methodology of project management as users often want or need things they never requested or thought they needed when the initial project scope was designed.

In essence, the project is never truly finished.  There may be end dates, but in a CI/CD environment, that just means the feedback loop starts over again.

Trust And Tools

IT leaders need to trust team members to do their job.  The best DevOps teams are self-reliant and work without top-down oversight.  They need to be empowered – and trusted – to make decisions.

Liron Hanania, Product Application Engineer at Atera, points out that your team was hired for a reason. You trust them to do the job you hired them for. The team is crystal clear about the standard of work that’s expected so things should run as expected. At that point, you should feel comfortable about getting out of the team’s way and allowing them to accomplish the work you’ve hired them for.

As an IT leader and/or project manager, much of your job is to make sure the team has the right tools to do the job.  You need to create efficient systems and workflows and automate absolutely anything you can. 

These systems need to facilitate real-time communications and foster a collaborative approach.  That means having team members working off a single tracking system that includes IT project chunks and incident reports.  That way everyone is in the loop when priorities shift.  Continuous measurement of every important element of the project by collaborators is crucial.

IT process automation allows you to free up your DevOps teams to focus on critical decisions rather than spending time on routine tasks.  

Responsibility For Business Outcomes

In the DevOps world, IT leaders are no longer just responsible for meeting business requirements.  They must take responsibility for business outcomes as well.

Matt Shealy

Matt Shealy

Matt Shealy is the President of Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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