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7 Tips to get the most out of your DevOps platform

The methodology and the DevOps team is in place, but is your DevOps platform really ready for prime time?

A DevOps platform is a single application that will support software development from the idea stage to deployment and beyond, while saving time and money, eliminating integration challenges, and baking in security and compliance right from the start.

It’s certainly a tall order, but the benefits are such that a DevOps platform is going to be the choice of 40% of organizations by 2023, according to a Strategic Planning Assumption from Gartner Group in its Market Guide for DevOps Value Stream Delivery Platforms. That’s a dramatic jump in DevOps Platform usage: In 2020, less than 10% of companies take advantage of a single platform.

So to make sure your team is poised to get the most out of a DevOps platform, here are seven best practices to consider.

1. Understand the workflow

No two DevOps teams operate exactly the same, so it’s vital to set aside preconceived notions and take a hard look at existing workflows, pain points, and areas where communication and collaboration may stumble. It’s possible to have hidden silos, even in a DevOps team, and those can slow down software development and delivery.

With a solid understanding of team workflow, it’s possible to see if your platform is a match, or if tweaks must be made. A DevOps platform should operate as a seamless extension of the team, and not create extra steps or processes that slow things down.

2. Check the culture

A DevOps platform is meant to support a wide variety of users from devs and ops pros to security, testers, UX designers, product managers, and even database administrators. Each of these groups will use the platform differently, but it must be in a coordinated way or there is a risk of losing the benefits of a single DevOps platform. A culture of collaboration and communication (or what some call "teamwork" will bring these disparate groups together.

Although communication and collaboration can be seen as rather nebulous concepts, they are perhaps the most critical aspects of a DevOps team – when we surveyed developers, ops team members, security pros, and testers in our 2020 Global DevSecOps Survey, each group rated communication and collaboration as the most important skill for their future careers.

But communication and collaboration don’t just happen; they need to be fostered. Scheduled meetings, built-in time for more “organic” communication and regular retrospectives on what’s working and not are good starting points to ensure a DevOps platform that works for everyone.

3. Dissect deployments

A huge benefit of a single DevOps platform (versus a bunch of disparate tools) is speedier deployments, but it can take some fine-tuning to ensure they’re as fast as they can be.

Every DevOps team needs a deployment protocol that will empower speedy code commits to a myriad of environments without too many hurdles or the risk of over-thinking. Establish a protocol by practicing the process, documenting everything and then regularly meeting to measure results and tweak the process. Time invested up front in establishing these best practices will prove very useful in the long run.

4. Simplify security

There’s no stage of the SDLC that elicits more finger-pointing than security, but a DevOps platform provides the perfect opportunity to simply bake it in from the beginning, shifting it left (earlier in the process) and right (something everyone is responsible for). Teams that have chosen a DevOps platform report dramatic improvements in both identifying and remediating bugs within a single sprint, or less.

5. Consider the cutting edge

A streamlined DevOps platform can offer teams the chance to easily try new technologies. Without the time and cost involved in supporting multiple toolchains, there is space to consider more “modern” development technologies including microservices, containers, and container orchestration options like Kubernetes.

Microservices and containers offer DevOps teams the luxury of modularity and, thus, flexibility. Microservices and containers enable small changes to be made, tested, rolled out, pulled back, and discarded, all without interfering with an existing application.

6. Create an MVP mindset

Using a DevOps platform, teams can consider something rather revolutionary: a minimum viable product. At GitLab, we actually use the term “minimum viable change," but the concept is the same: Make the smallest possible change so customer feedback happens fast. It’s one of the biggest advantages of a DevOps platform, but it’s critical to ensure team processes support what can be a substantial mindset shift.

7. Don’t miss the view

A busy DevOps team using multiple toolchains has no way to see across the entire development lifecycle. But with a DevOps platform, the team can now enjoy the view…literally. Monitoring and dashboards are built-in so there is suddenly 360 visibility. With all that visibility comes the potential for data overload, so it’s important to have an established process in place to ensure the noise to signal ratio is right for the team.

More about the advantages of a DevOps platform

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