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Why -- and how -- BizDevOps is going to change everything

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Do we need a DevOps 2.0? Yes, if you want to get back to 'startup'

BizDevOps can help an organization be more nimble and return to its startup-like roots. But expert Christopher Ward warns that there can also be downsides, like technical debt.

"Hello, SSQ, I am a Java developer in a large technology company. Recently, our leadership has been talking a great...

deal about 'BizDevOps.' What is BizDevOps? Is it DevOps 2.0? And do I really need more jargon to do my job well?"

In large companies -- especially technology companies -- execution can be easier said than done. As companies grow, communication complexity, team silos, office bureaucracy and technology overhead can begin to slow down the process of operating the business. In response to such entropic forces, BizDevOps cultures aim to bring back some of the scrappy, lean efficiency the company may have had when it was smaller and leaner. Indeed, BizDevOps is a startup mindset at scale.

Why BizDevOps? Why now?

If you're like me, you're probably asking, "Do we truly need MORE new buzzwords to describe what seems to be common sense?" Certainly, Agile focuses product teams on customer value, delivery speed and lean cycles of experimentation. And, like DevOps, BizDevOps looks across systems and aims to break down team silos. So why do we need a new term?

Unlike DevOps or Agile, BizDevOps typically comes as a mandate from the executive boardroom. Corporate leaders of large companies become frustrated when they no longer see the adaptability or efficiency that made them successful when they were smaller. As they directly feel the pain (lost revenue, lost users, falling share price) of a company that is no longer singularly focused on their core end-to-end business, they may decide to make dramatic changes to how their company operates.

BizDevOps is a startup mindset at scale.

Also, unlike DevOps or Agile, DevOps 2.0, or BizDevOps, consolidates end-to-end responsibility over the entire customer journey in one cohesive team: from advertising, to acquisition, to conversion and retention. Leadership's goal with a BizDevOps approach is to unify business operations so that the company can execute end-to-end holistic experiments, build new features that stretch across product lines and improve the entire customer experience. Such lofty goals that were easily obtained as a small company simply aren't possible when teams are divided by separate leadership, goals and technologies.

What should I look out for as a developer?

You may have seen BizDevOps approaches before and not realized it. In product development, we'll often put together temporary, cross-functional groups called (apologies for the jargon) 'tiger teams'; in marketing, we have 'growth hackers.' In such cases, executive leaders have empowered one group to work across teams and do whatever it takes to solve problems.

Overall, this can be a good thing. As a product engineer, cutting tape and cumbersome processes is good. Certainly, we all have been frustrated by inter-team collaboration at times and wondered why we can't all focus on the same thing in the same sprint.

If done right, BizDevOps should certainly help sprint teams to work together more seamlessly. That said, BizDevOps typically takes a scrappy approach to solving problems. And, as I like to say, "There's scrappy, then there's crappy."

At their best, BizDevOps teams will help find innovative solutions to problems; at their worst, they cut corners by justifying the value they can deliver to customers in the short term.

Moreover, any executive team that is excited about BizDevOps may not be aware of the tradeoffs for the future of their technology platform when these corners are cut. BizDevOps teams may not appropriately weigh the tech debt incurred as a cost of business. In some cases of so-called DevOps 2.0, considerable damage could be done to the current technology and development operations.

If your engineering team is building (or considering) a culture of DevOps, BizDevOps is a mixed bag for you. In many ways, BizDevOps aims for the same holistic, system-wide thinking and breaking down of silos.

Certainly, changing corporate hierarchies can be difficult without executive support, so BizDevOps can help bring attention to this challenge of DevOps, as well. However, consider that BizDevOps aims to break down these silos in order to solve customer-centric problems. The team charged with delivering customer value and growing revenue may not have the patience for the long-term strategic initiatives of DevOps.

Next Steps

Time for another buzzword: What is ChatOps?

Take the first steps towards BizDevOps

Where digital performance management and DevOps meet

This was last published in November 2016

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Essential Guide

Why -- and how -- BizDevOps is going to change everything

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