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Tried and true advice for getting started with BizDevOps

Want to succeed with BizDevOps? Start small, create empathy and always ask what Amazon would do. Here is road-tested advice from experts in the field.

The next generation of DevOps is right around the corner. BizDevOps brings business, developers and operations...

people together to coordinate as a single team from start to finish. The goal: software development that is perfectly aligned with the business objectives and delivered rapidly.

If you're wondering how to experiment with a BizDevOps team in your company, here's some expert advice:

Don't underestimate resistance to change

Making a change like that of BizDevOps is really a transformation, and you can't expect people to just embrace it, said Stephen Elliot, vice president of research, DevOps, for market research firm IDC. Instead you have to embrace the science of change management and make sure that senior leaders understand what's being asked of people. "They have to be seen as having skin in the game," Elliot said. "If you want to change people's attitudes and behavior, you need to change somebody's metrics on what they're getting paid on."

Cultivate empathy for other departments

Chris Baynham-Hughes, head of DevOps for European consulting firm Atos, thinks the trick is to find a way to get everyone to not just understand each other, but to empathize. "The challenge for dev and test teams is really to understand what the business user is trying to achieve and why [the user] wants to achieve it," he said. "If they can understand that, they can now help to support [business colleagues] to achieve it in the best possible way. And that all comes back to empathetic collaboration." He suggests all sides take a look at the late Stephen Covey, a business and organizational mentor and speaker, and his philosophy of "seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Ask: What would Amazon do?

Tammy Everts, an evangelist at SOASTA, an APM platform seller based in Mountain View, Calif., said her company is aligned along BizDevOps principles. But rather than reinvent the wheel, she and her colleagues regularly channel the spirits of those companies that have already gotten there, like Amazon. "When we find ourselves stuck, we just ask, 'What would Amazon do?'" she said.

Hire a coach to boost communication

When we find ourselves stuck, we just ask, 'What would Amazon do?'
Tammy Evertsevangelist, SOASTA

"Developers are really good at not talking to each other, particularly if they are sitting next to each other, so getting genuine collaboration or buy-in can be difficult," Baynham-Hughes said. So he suggests getting an Agile-ish coach, a tribe leader or even a project manager who can facilitate the communication and model the necessary behaviors. And they can act as "interpreters" when necessary. "I don't see it acceptable for a business person to say they don't do tech or for a tech person to not understand business," he said. "If you want to have a mature team, everyone really needs to understand the concepts."

Be creative in your approach

You can think of a BizDevOps group as a SWAT team, there to use when you need to deploy it, said Karen Devine, chief marketing officer at QuickBase and the former head of "BizOps" for the QuickBase division of Intuit. (QuickBase is now a stand-alone company in Cambridge, Mass., that sells a platform for low-code app development.) She brought business analysts together with IT people and focused on control and security. And even though the scope was somewhat limited, the cross-learning and creativity that happened was surprising and inspiring. "We're working on really creative processes to work together once a month and look at the combination of backlog and applications," Devine said.

Spell it out

Felix Hemstedt, a senior consultant for German reinsurance company Hannover Re, said it was important to take small methodical steps when getting started with BizDevOps. And pay attention to details, like making sure to define the scope of testing and all the relevant testing procedures.

Start very small

Ceridian, an HR software and services company in Minneapolis, has rolled out a BizDevOps team just to its client managers, said CIO Warren Perlman. This approach enables the group to solve customer issues much more quickly as they don't have to reach out to other areas of the company for help. "This starts at the top, and we encourage developers to get the ear of the end user as much as possible," he said. And be patient: As Baynham-Hughes pointed out, Netflix wasn't built in a day.

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