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Agile vs DevOps: 4 Common Misconceptions About Their Differences

Agile vs DevOps | Copado


Though agile and DevOps are widely popular methodologies, they’re frequently misunderstood. Both are designed to help you achieve faster and more streamlined releases and better collaboration between teams, so you may think agile and DevOps are synonyms, or even competing philosophies. However, comparing agile vs DevOps is akin to comparing apples vs oranges—it’s both inaccurate and unnecessary because they’re completely different concepts.

Agile vs DevOps: 4 Common Misconceptions About Their Differences

Let’s examine some common misconceptions about the differences between agile vs DevOps.

Misconception #1: Agile and DevOps are Synonyms

Though agile and DevOps are both meant to help you streamline the development and release process, they’re not synonymous. Agile is a process that development teams follow, whereas DevOps is a philosophy that requires a total culture change for your organization.

Agile breaks software development projects into a series of small, well-defined, and repeatable processes. Every aspect of development, testing, and deployment is performed in short sprints, so you can quickly identify and fix issues and easily pivot in response to changing requirements.

DevOps, on the other hand, is a philosophy that promotes collaboration between development and operations teams. DevOps prescribes a number of tools and processes—including automation, programmable infrastructure deployment, and iterative software development—that are meant to help companies move closer to a truly seamless combination of development and operations.

As you can see from their definitions, agile and DevOps are not the same thing. However, the two often complement each other, and many DevOps organizations use agile to achieve their iterative software development goals.

Misconception #2: Agile and DevOps Are Technologies to be Purchased

It’s tempting to believe that you can purchase an off-the-shelf solution that will implement agile and/or DevOps for you, but that isn’t the case. While there are tools and frameworks that can help you achieve your agile and DevOps goals, both of these principles require a broader culture change that you can’t just buy and install.

Agile requires you to rethink and restructure your entire software development process. Every stakeholder—from executives to developers to QA testers—needs to commit to following the agile development cycle throughout each iteration of every project. Implementing agile requires training, strategizing, and frequent and open communication. You can certainly purchase technology solutions and tools to help you achieve agile, but they won’t do you any good unless your company culture shifts to prioritize agile principles.

Similarly, DevOps is a holistic methodology that requires a full-company shift in how you think about development and IT operations. Before you can implement any automation or infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tools, you need to get your entire organization on board with the DevOps philosophy. If you try to roll out DevOps tools and practices before your people are ready, you’re likely to receive enormous pushback from staff who don’t understand why they need to change their workflows. You need everyone in your organization to understand the importance and benefits of collaboration, automation, and continuous delivery so everyone can work together to achieve your DevOps goals.

Misconception #3: DevOps Requires Agile

One of the key principles of DevOps is faster software delivery, which you may also associate with agile. Indeed, many teams use an agile software development methodology to achieve continuous integration/continuous deployment and other DevOps goals. However, agile isn’t required for DevOps, and there are other approaches you can use depending on your business requirements, team size, and other factors.

Misconception #4: DevOps Replaces Agile

Agile and DevOps are not mutually exclusive—saying that DevOps replaces agile would be like saying ice cream replaces apple pie. You can have each one independently, but they work even better together. You may find it easier to start with an agile implementation, and then gradually adopt more and more DevOps principles and practices when your organization is ready. Or, you may focus on other areas of DevOps first, and then implement agile as a step in your DevOps maturity roadmap.

Though they have some overlapping principles and benefits, it’s unfair to compare agile vs DevOps as if they are competing methodologies. In fact, agile and DevOps complement each other beautifully when used together.

Implementing Agile vs DevOps

Clearing up these misconceptions about agile vs DevOps should show you that it’s unnecessary to pit one against the other. You can choose to implement agile instead of DevOps (or vice versa), but they’re commonly used together as they both support similar goals and processes.