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How organisations can achieve the DevOps holy grail: Creating end-to-end visibility in software delivery

(Image credit: Image Credit: Profit_Image / Shutterstock)

At first glance, the state of software delivery in 2020 looks pristine. Since the advent of DevOps, companies have been able to optimise their productivity, drive innovation, and generate profit through high-velocity software iterations. Organisations have been able to build faster, fail faster, and take productivity to new heights through this level of agility.

However, peeling back the layers of software delivery tells a different story. Despite more companies embracing and championing a DevOps culture among their product teams, the reality is that these technical teams remain isolated from the wider organisation, and lack visibility into other critical business units in the value chain. This means that businesses are operating in broken silos - tools are disconnected, workstreams are duplicated, and teams are working off different, outdated, or incomplete sets of information.

This inevitably causes software and business delivery problems down the line. For organisations to remove these silos by linking tools, teams and processes, and achieve the DevOps ‘Holy Grail’ - end-to-end visibility to tie software development to business objectives - they must look to Software Delivery Management (SDM). By adopting principles of SDM - common data, universal insights, common connected processes to enable cross-functional collaboration - only then will organisations be successful making software delivery a core business process.

The principles of SDM

Operating in silos means not having complete visibility across the development process, in turn slowing down and lengthening timelines for projects to be completed. For companies eager to become software first, product-led businesses, this goal will only be further out of reach with every mistake or bottleneck in the software delivery process. However, by providing end-to-end visibility over tools, processes, people, and data, SDM allows all stakeholders to maintain continuous alignment as software is developed; therefore, allowing their tasks and priorities to evolve alongside it. This way, teams can communicate better, understand each other’s needs, and effectively create value for the customer.

SDM achieves this through four pillars: common data, universal insights, common connected processes, and cross-functional collaboration.

1. Common Data: Without a database that gives multiple stakeholders access to the same, real-time information, the entire software delivery process will deteriorate. Rather than locking data away in silos for domain-specific tools, SDM enables all stakeholders involved in software delivery to have access to the same data. Software developers can look at customer interviews to understand how features are being used, product managers can preview features to plan their product roadmap, and so on. Providing access to common data and context empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions.

2. Universal Insights: As a result of common data, stakeholders can gain shared and universal insights. For instance, information about the software delivery process can be analysed by the customer success team to identify where a fix for a customer service problem is in the pipeline.

3. Common Connected Processes: When an organisation’s processes and ways of working are disconnected, miscommunicated decisions and missed deadlines are aplenty, and inhibit both value and speed. However, when these processes - such as product planning, customer support, and software delivery - are connected by common data and universal insights, the rapid and continuous delivery of business value becomes the new standard. Collaboration is seamless.

4. Cross-Functional Collaboration: By establishing these three pillars, continuous and frictionless cross-functional collaboration becomes natural; allowing all business units and stakeholders to gain transparency into data, tools and processes, analysis, and business goals.

The business benefits that SDM brings

With SDM, everyone in the organisation - from product managers to customer success teams to developers - has access to a single source of truth with unified information for better collaboration. For example, customer success teams can relay feedback on what features customers want, product managers can use this feedback to plan and prioritise  new features,  software developers can have the context to understand the problem the new feature will solve, and engineering leaders can track progress while sharing realistic timelines of when these features can be built and deployed.

As the feedback loop widens to include these various teams, developers obtain more valuable feedback that leads to intelligent iterations and software improvements. Ultimately, SDM allows these teams to see what activities and workstreams are happening across multiple teams and projects, along with the components, dependencies and bottlenecks; creating the holy grail of end-to-end visibility - resulting in better planning, prioritising and managing the on-time delivery of products and features.

Additionally, SDM helps organisations strengthen their governance and compliance practices. By having visibility into all ongoing projects and activities, and into how teams operate, engineering leaders can drive best practices and apply the same set of compliance policies to multiple areas of the software delivery process.

The ability to implement all these guidelines and rules helps team leaders improve development efficiency and effectiveness. Equally importantly, it allows teams to ensure they are delivering quality software that customers want and positively impacts business KPIs, which is critical in becoming a product-led, software first company.

We have seen this in CRM and ERP for years - where all stakeholders across an organisation have visibility into the parts of the process flow that involves them. With SDM, this level of visibility and the benefits that it brings can be applied to software delivery.

Using SDM to pave the way towards better business

Existing organisational silos cannot be attributed to a single tool, team, or project. More often than not, disconnect in the software delivery process is usually down to complexity - for instance, when a company starts out small with one to two teams, visibility is easy to achieve. However, this becomes increasingly challenging as the company starts to scale to 10, 50, and 200 teams. Visibility across the entire software delivery process degrades A development team may be doing a great job with a top-quality tool and comprehensive project plan, yet if the product team supplied the developer team with out-of-date information, or if their selected testing tool does not align with a tracking database, the project will run into problems and bottleneck issues.

However, by using SDM principles, people, processes, and tools are all integrated and aligned towards a common goal; with open communication and data flowing among them. While technology, tools, and business demands will continue to evolve, SDM best practices allows businesses to stay agile and continue leveraging software as a competitive differentiator well into the future.

Michael Baldani, Senior Manager DevOptics, CloudBees