How to avoid the Top 5 Pitfalls of an Enterprise DevOps Transformation

Written by Liam Gulliver
February 18th 2020

3 minute read

DevOps as an approach has consistently grown year-on-year for the last six years and is showing no signs of slowing down. It has quickly become the gold standard for businesses no matter what size or age, though many still struggle with this cultural shift, especially non-digitally native enterprises.

When done correctly, shifting towards this new standard can be transformative for an organisation in terms of innovation, time-to-market, agility and increased revenue. It should be noted however, that DevOps is no silver bullet.

In our experience at MMT, a DevOps transformation commonly fails due to the following five pitfalls:

1. Not having the right, or enough, buy-in
If there is no buy-in from the C suite, or indeed at a grassroots level, the transformation won’t move forwards. The first step to getting all stakeholders on board is to define what DevOps means to your business, what benefits it presents and create evangelists to keep momentum.

2. Project teams instead of value stream aligned teams
Project teams or teams with specific responsibility create bottlenecks and slow the flow of work. They have little autonomy as they must work with the other project teams to deliver a given piece of work, which goes against the first ideal of DevOps: locality and simplicity. The key here is to create cross-functional teams mapped to value streams. For example, an e-Commerce-based business could have a search team, catalogue team and shopping basket team. This method will ensure:

  • Teams have mission command
  • They are value driven
  • They are autonomous
  • They are responsible for the end-to-end delivery of that value stream
  • They can deliver more, faster

Conway’s Law states that “organisations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations.” By not mapping teams to value streams, systems are designed that are both expensive to build and maintain.

3. Silos within teams
While teams can be cross-functional, an easy trap to fall into is the project team approach, just at a smaller scale.
Make sure you upskill given roles so that they can do as much of their job as possible without having to hand off to someone else for completion e.g. creating a CI/CD pipeline, writing tests, executing tests.

4. Poor application architecture
Architecture is a top predictor of organisational performance based on research by Dr Nicole Forsgren in the book Accelerate. Put simply, poor architecture equals poor business performance. To get real benefits, you may have to update the architecture and tackle technical debt.

5. Creating a DevOps Team
People often ask whether DevOps should be a seperate team. It feels natural to “put all the DevOps stuff over there” because as humans, we need to give people responsibility around a given task or specialisation.

However, DevOps isn’t a team, it’s a culture that reaches across every role and level within a business. More accurately, DevOps is the combination of the right people, processes and tools coming together to collaborate and continuously deliver value to users and keep it there.

Take the time to look at where you are in your journey, has your organisation fallen into these traps?


At MMT Digital, we are experts in Agile and DevOps transformation. Talk to us today to arrange a DevOps assessment to see where you are on your journey and how we can help you take your next steps.

Find out how we established an award-winning DevOps culture for Vodafone UK.

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