In the London subway system, there are constant reminders to “Mind the Gap,” or make sure that you don’t fall through the space between the platform and the train. It turns out that the most dangerous part of riding on the subway is getting on and off the train. It’s the transition that is the most critical.
That’s what makes Devops so exciting. Devops is not only the application of agile approaches to operations that have been hugely successful in development organizations. It is also the attempt to bring these organizations together so the agile practices make the gap between them easier to overcome. Why is this gap important? Because it is a significant cost that most organizations bear but 1) accept as a reality of working in a complicated organization and 2) have no sense of its extent.
If Devops can address this gap, then it can help organizations significantly reduce the cost of organizational handoffs. The application of agile practices to operations areas like IT and support is a good first step and one of the explicit outcomes of Devops. Focusing on the gap, though, needs additional practices, practices that draw from other areas like Knowledge Management (and approaches like Knowledge-Centered Support, or KCS).
I believe you can apply knowledge-sharing practices to link up development and operations teams that both embrace Devops practices. The process to adopt these practices is straight-forward:
- Look at the gaps themselves. One way to do so is to look at different areas of the organization and see how committed each is to share knowledge (Klever’s Enterprise Assessment can provide this data to you, as well as specific suggestions for a way forward). Another way is to map the knowledge as it moves from development to operations and back again (our preferred method is called Value Networks Analysis).
- Look at the form that knowledge hand-offs take. What format does documentation take when it is handed off? Is it easy to find? Is it written and structured in a way that it is easy to reuse?
- Look at current performance. Measure the gap (see my article on the Looper measure) in order to address it. But creating a measure is not enough to drive change. The team needs to understand how the measure of the gap relates back to critical organizational outcomes, in this case the cost of running the business.
In most organizations, the gap between different areas is wide and expensive. Using Devops and knowledge-sharing practices can shrink the gap and deliver value and cost savings to the organizations. So mind the gap and make sure it isn’t tripping your organization up.