Agile and DevOps, Cousins of Collaboration

Africa DevOps Day was hosted by Barclays in Johannesburg recently; I spoke about experimental agility at scale using the recent FNB CodeFest as an example.

DevOps seeks to drive increased levels of collaboration between developers and operations; much like the way Agile values “individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. In his talk, Thomas Enoch (Chef VP of Customer Success) spoke of human tribes and how crucial it is to bring people together, understand eachother’s unique perspectives and if you have to be different or identify with your tribe, then wear a silly hat. The whole day was focused on sharing stories and experiences of how DevOps and its principles (many of them similar to Agile) are changing the way we build and run IT. [paragraph 1 of 5]

The FNB CodeFest held last month in Johannesburg saw 250 developers converge in one location for a 6 day sprint to collaborate and accelerate solutions. Over 40 apps were built during a 24 hour coding marathon when teams from FNB, RMB, Wesbank and Ashburton shared IP, solved problems and pushed the boundaries of fintech (read more about banking and disruption here). Learning more about DevOps today I realised that bringing cross-functional IT teams together is one of the biggest drivers of better-built, better-run software; something all of us in the industry strive for. [2/5]

The FNB Codefest highlights video featured interviews, soundbytes and insights from the “factory floor” of the venue where business problems were being solved literally overnight. “I would love us to do this [codefest] on a daily basis … get all our techie teams together” said Lezanne Human (CEO: FNB Savings & Investments) when she experienced the collaboration between business and IT (her team actually won the event with the Kids Savings App). Such senior business sponsorship is crucial for Agile as well as DevOps to be successful and once the results are visible, the message is easily spread[3/5]

“Banks are dead … branch based infrastructure, hard to get things done … that model is dead”, FNB Chief Risk Officer Christoph Nieuwoudt emphatically claimed in his interview. Agile / DevOps is a new model of building and running IT which we need to drive stronger than ever as the urgency of disrupting old models intensifies. Experienced practitioners already know this and run their teams very successfully on these principles; the point is that showcasing it through event-driven innovation like a codefest brings your business stakeholders right inside the action and makes it powerfully real. [4/5]

“Totally different … taken the bureaucracy out … put business with IT”, observed Dimension Data’s Daniel Robus from inside the venue during our YouTube Livestream interview. We have to address the friction in large organisations and find fresh, faster, disruptive ways of doing things better to deliver great software for our businesses. I was thrilled to see people from Barclays, Standard Bank, FirstRand and other companies at today’s event grappling with this and showing the courage to move their organisations forward. [5/5]

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1 thought on “Agile and DevOps, Cousins of Collaboration”

  1. Nice article, bringing the teams closer is definitely important. However, I think a big problem is that DevOps seems to be such an ambigious word, with people interpreting it in so many different ways. It doesn’t seem to just be an extension of agile practices. In today’s fast-paced world, we require agility in all parts of the application lifecycle. Key factors to the success of DevOps will be replacing the old manual processes for tasks such as infrastructure provisioning, deployments and environment management; which are slowing down delivery. Developers can deliver as fast as they want, but if infrastructure tasks are taking long to complete, the overall delivery time hasn’t actually improved much.

    Automation is key, and until such time as all IT tasks have been automated, it will be impossible to deliver at the rate that the business requires, which is a driver for agile development in the first place. Automated testing and deployments also reduce the risk of introducing instability on existing software that constant rapid changes often introduce. Reliability and predictability of these processes allows for teams to release more frequently in a safer way.

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