Unified Agile-DevOps Transformation Model, Framework and Executable Roadmap for Large Organizations
Find out everything you need to know to build an effective foundation for a transformation.
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Agile-DevOps transformation and Continuous Delivery became the leading topic and highest priority for senior leadership, stakeholders, teams and customers alike. Agile-DevOps transformation is a fundamental change to the organization's culture, structure, people, and business/technical paradigms towards the next level of agility. It relies on Lean values and principles, and brings the highest level of collaboration, productivity, quality, flexibility and efficiency, cutting-edge technology, and competitive edge to your organization.
While some organizations succeed in their transformations, others fail. Agile-DevOps transformation can be ambiguous, disrupting, misdirecting, and even harmful if executed without the right guidance or led by the wrong people. Transformations primarily fail for two reasons. The first is the lack of a common vision, strategic approach and unified transformation model, framework, and roadmap that inhibits the agreement between change agents, leading to the inability to arrive at a single voice on how to orchestrate and implement change. The other is the agents’ limited knowledge and expertise or a tendency to follow on a previous success path regardless of the organization's uniqueness.
The created framework and implementation roadmap will illustrate how to initiate and successfully execute Agile-DevOps transformation at any large organization.
Unified Agile-DevOps Transformation Model, Framework and Roadmap
The unified transformation model focuses on organizational perspectives, culture, people, and interactions. It also synergizes and aligns various sequential and concurrent change stages and steps with the most rational and effective processes and the best practices for changing the current status quo to achieve the advanced state of continuous agility.
The Agile-DevOps transformation model is shown in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1—Unified Agile-DevOps Transformation Model for Large Organizations
To unfreeze the current Status Quo, build expectations and excitement, and properly cement a foundation for upcoming change, we created a change agents power group that plays a mission-critical role in implementing transformation.
A change agent is never a single person, but a highly regarded, influential, experienced and knowledgeable group of seasoned internal and external experts well-versed in all facets of Agile, DevOps and organizational change systems. The group must obtain leadership buy-ins and be able to form a broader coalition for change from influential and powerful managers and members to overcome resistance and eliminate impediments. Together, they will shake up the established organizational structure, culture, processes, practices, plans, relationships, behaviors and change the way people thinking and working on assignments.
External change agents bring the wealth of industry experiences and are not obliged to the current structure and status quo. Internal leaders complement the group with inherent power, authority, and recognition, abilities to oversee, coordinate and facilitate the change effort, and provide knowledge/insights on organizational culture, structure, people, and processes.
Every organization is unique and defined by its own culture, leadership style, structure, talents, technical capabilities, processes, practices, and tools. Therefore, one of the important criteria for selecting the change agents is their ability to resonate and synch with the particular organization’s uniqueness. Another important criterion is the agents’ ability to function as a team, agree on transformation vision, and create a single voice of change. A third important criterion is to select the right Principal Change Leader, a person with the highest degree of power, respect, authority, confidence, knowledge and experience to lead change. This person should be seen as the undisputable change leader and a go-to person for critical decisions and approvals.
Fred C. Lunenburg, in his The Role of the Change Agent, said: "The success depends heavily on the quality and workability of the relationship between the change agent and the key decision-makers." He also identified the following traits for change agent: Hemophily (change agent and employees are alike), Empathy, Linkage (change agent and members are tied together in collaborative activities), Proximity, Structuring (ability to clearly plan, organize and design change effort), Capacity, Openness, Reward, Energy, and Synergy.
Based on the above criteria and desired traits, we comprise a change group of Agile-DevOps leaders, coaches, consultants, engineers, architects, stakeholders, and process, practice, delivery, and compliance/governance owners. The group may also include members who can add significant value to transformation effort — people who possess high-energy and are motivated, skillful, and have a proven record of delivering results. The change group is tightly linked to the community of practice. The example of a change group is shown in fig. 2.
Fig. 2. Change Agents Power Group
The change group takes the direction from change triggers — the leadership, stakeholders, sales, marketing, product managers, teams, and portfolio. The process, practice, tools, and compliance owners also have a large stake in change. Some triggers for transformation include competitive pressures and the need for new products, services, infrastructure, technology, automation and skills to increase productivity, improve quality, reduce cycle time, enhance profitability, and raise shareholder’s value.
The transformation is initiated by creating an urgency that is justified by change triggers and outlines the negative consequences of not properly addressing the need for change or doing nothing.
The group builds an awareness, excitement, and knowledge, form a broader coalition is support for change, create and communicate change vision, and begins working on plans and schedules. It is critically important to secure support from the vast majority of senior leadership and managers, and obtain their buy-in to avoid resistance or return to previous behaviors and practices.
As the critical mass of the organization’s support for change is reached, the group disseminates a vision for change and summarizing ideas, strategic goals, and approach for executing vision in order to achieve a state of continuous delivery. The vision is proliferated through broadcasts, newsletters, forums, web/video conferences, and community of practice, training programs and the word of mouth. It is important to ensure the vision message consistency and a single voice. The best practice for change agents is to incorporate the vision into daily routine and training by leading by example, and promptly address any concerns, resistance, anxiety, and doubt.
Concurrently, the change group begins to facilitate and conduct coaching, training, knowledge sharing, workshops, dojos, ceremonies, planning and scheduling, and engage communities of practice. The Lean values and principles, Kaizen, transparency, self-organization, trust, value/prioritization, customer’s involvement, managers as teachers, continual learning and improvement are propagated and cemented to unfreeze a current state and build a new culture. The reliance on ‘house of Lean’ is at the cornerstone of change group success.
Training, knowledge, and improvement activities are focused on cultural, infrastructure and technical paradigm shifts towards cross-functional feature teams, open-ended, flexible architecture, design patterns, breaking dependencies, single codebase, small batches, refactoring, emergent design, simplicity, build-in quality, synchronization, and stability. The change group nurtures members’ motivation and excitement, flourish new skills, expertise and abilities, and encourage active participation, emphasizing flexibility, adaptability, openness to changes, improvements, creativity, and innovation.
As training starts, it is important to keep the momentum going and "walking the walk" by conducting assessments and value stream mapping, focusing on organizational structure, system thinking, processes, practices, product management, tooling, and coding standards. Attacking the low-hanging fruit, in alignment with the transformation’s direction, can accelerate improvements and boost the morale.
In the early stages, there will be some resistance to new ideas and change caused by the conflict of old behaviors meeting new expectations, challenges, and uncertainties. That creates a vulnerable state of confusion, unstable relationships, lack of enthusiasm, and declined productivity, quality and efficiency. Therefore, change agents should foresee and factor in the chaos and uncertainty, have a mitigation plan in place, and be transparent in building and communicating the right expectations.
As transformation shapes its course, the focus is shifted on technical aspects and advanced practices including upfront collaborative design with customer involvement, development and test automation, continuous delivery pipeline with automated deployments, improved architecture, and infrastructure in support of microservices, containerization, monitoring, and "everything as code."
When enhancing an Agile framework, the small batches and INVEST stories, presented as vertically-sliced acceptance scenarios captured as executable specifications and described in a unified domain-specific language, become a de facto standard for product development. Coupled with behavioral/domain-driven design and microservices, it will synergize development and test effort into acceptance scenario/test case passing, assuring the precision of meeting the customer requirements and paving the road for maximum efficiency and functionality/value delivery with no defects.
Change group is raising high-quality thinking and improved behavior embracing curiosity, flexibility, adaptability, optimism, resourcefulness, creativity and innovation. The transformation approach should be aligned with "3C" leadership model (Cost-Competitiveness-Culture) nurturing the performance drivers to drastically improve business value and customer delight. It should also provide a capability of converging CMMI3-5 into a transformation platform, allowing to implement government contracts.
One of the main goals throughout the transformation is to sustain the leaner, self-managed, self-organized teams, establish amplify feedback loops, and equip teams with the best engineering practices and sophisticated tools for quality/vulnerability scans, source control management and continuous integration to allow frequent deployment/release via automated continuous delivery pipeline. Key Agile-DevSecOps metrics, continual learning, experimentation, retrospectives, strive for technical excellence and automation, and unleashed members’ creativity lead to continuous improvement in efficiency, quality and agility, further enhanced by transition to Kanban delivery.
The first success of transformation is coming from quick wins. While the change group is covering the broad spectrum of enterprise-wide transformation, the best way to achieve a short-term win is to select a smaller yet vibrant and visible domain that engage in a short-term project. Ideally, the project team(s) would comprised of cross-functional expertise with strong business/technical acumen, have clear goals, and be charged to deliver high impact/value win with a guarantee success. As the first transformation teams adapt new behavior and practices, and customer delight becomes evident, the tangible benefits can be shared across the organization and new principles/values, practices, relationships and behavior can be hard-coded into the transformation’s culture and blueprint. Though it is too early to declare a transformation victory enterprise-wide, creating and celebrating quick wins help to further embrace change and eliminate pockets of resistance.
Short-term wins, gained abilities and new skills, experiences, and expertise in adapting new processes, practices, and behaviors are opening the road to further transform ideas, integrate, build on the change, and sustain long-term change. New culture with motivated people, improved collaboration and involved customer as a partner, value-driven benefits, streamlined and stabilized processes, innovative and continuously evolved practices, experimentation, amplify feedback, continual learning, and continuous delivery with frequent deployments and automated scans, leading to dramatic improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality, are materialized, anchored in corporate culture, and drive the organization's agility. If you follow this guidance, you should be able to achieve the advanced state of continuous delivery with all successful attributes, values, and benefits. However, it is critical to reinforce and sustain change to avoid the return of previous behaviors.
Hopefully, the Unified Agile-DevOps Transformation system provides a clear vision, solid framework, and roadmap to execute large-scale change at any organization and achieve the next level of Agility. The group of change agents orchestrates and executes transformation, and plays a critical role in achieving expected results. Customization and improvisation are allowed and encouraged if they are tailored and reflect your uniqueness. The essential part of any transformation is to start doing change, and you can use this guide to plan and implement transformation accordingly.
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