Patrick Funck, CIO, Navihealth, A Cardinal Health Company
Similar to many business processes, the secret to success in DevOps is all about applying resources effectively. Do it correctly, and you’ll not only increase efficiencies across your organization, but you’ll also be better positioned to handle mergers and acquisitions (M&A), system service levels, and industry regulatory changes.
I’ve found DevOps as an effective bridge between software engineers and TechOps. At a high level, software engineers want the right capacity to build and deploy software, and TechOps wants to focus on infrastructure. By placing DevOps in the center, that team can remove constraints from both sides; allow each to do what it’s best at, and interface between the two to create valuable automation and improve quality. The individuals on DevOps are most familiar with the infrastructure and all software products, so they can assist with deployments, environments, and infrastructure—and execute quickly.
By defining roles, you can also identify which employees fit in each respective position that best suits their skills and personality traits. More importantly, each employee understands his/her role in the organization. That pays dividends when facing common challenges, from M&A to service levels to regulatory changes.
Following M&A, clearly defined roles can reduce or eliminate confusion. When software teams merge, they bring together different DevOps maturity levels, even different understandings of the roles. Part of the challenge is getting everyone to speak the same language (a challenge we faced– and overcame–at naviHealth).
If your roles are clearly defined and you have the right leader in place to determine strategy, tools, and methodologies, M&A is more about determining what role each employee best fits. This enables the organization to scale.
With DevOps working effectively between software engineering and TechOps, you can also rethink your major incident management response process. DevOps can lead the response because they’re the most knowledgeable about how the software operates on all environments and infrastructure.
When you support thousands of users, every minute counts if there’s an issue. Customer satisfaction improves with excellent system availability and performance, so positioning DevOps to direct the technology response team allows issues to be triaged and resolved faster and more holistically. The same holds true when organizations have to adjust to changing regulations. Understanding limitations—if you can use cloud, what data needs to be de-identified, and more—is better served when DevOps owns and handles all considerations for the broader technology team.
Working in the health care industry offers plenty of opportunities to experience this first hand. One specific challenge my team is currently facing is that a new program regulated by the federal government was announced, but the older version of this program is still in effect, so we’re working on updating multiple software platforms simultaneously. If our customers are participating in the old program and plan to continue with the new program, our systems need to differentiate between the two because the programs operate differently, and more importantly, the timeframes overlap. In this case, the DevOps support team needs to concentrate on moving the software deployments through, even as new regulations are mandated by the government. The details are being defined and released continuously, so our team needs to focus on what is necessary for customers to be successful and compliant.
Understanding the stakes, as well as how these components move independently and require numerous updates, makes defining roles and roadmaps even more critical. Sometimes perfecting the basics is the most strategic thing you can do for your DevOps team, and for the organization as a whole.
My advice for your DevOps function to succeed is to clearly define roles, position your team strategically in order to maximize their strengths, and work from that foundation to streamline the work and build up your capacity.