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2/12/2022
10 minutes

DevOps Visibility As The First Step In the Value Chain

Written by
Copado Team
Table of contents

Visibility is critical in a DevOps environment. Modern software development is more complex than ever — a single enterprise project can have dozens of stakeholders and hundreds of APIs. Even when it’s clear teams are feeling DevOps pain, the source of that pain can be far from obvious. Without visibility, you're looking for a needle in a haystack. That's why it’s the first of Copado’s Five Steps to DevOps Success.

What is DevOps visibility? Well, it's a combination of things, from proper version control and pipeline management to a transparent organizational culture. Without visibility, you won’t have the information you need to improve quality or accelerate releases.

Signs You Lack DevOps Visibility

About 83% of IT decision-makers report their organizations have adopted DevOps practices to improve software, but not all of them have reported success. When your organization experiences DevOps pain, the first step is to check for where you’re lacking visibility.

Here are three indications you don’t have visibility where you need it:

 

Overreliance on manual processes

Unclear goals

Trouble with complex merges

Tracking changes manually sets you up for problems later on. It's very easy to make a small change and fail to log it. Manual methods can also keep critical information siloed, so different teams might have incomplete or conflicting information.

Good DevOps is iterative and leverages circular feedback loops to work towards the ultimate end goal: strong user experience. However, during development, teams can lose sight of the bigger picture. Unclear feedback mechanisms can make it challenging to prioritize the right things and set the best goals.

Continuous integration was supposed to be a solution to "merge hell". However, even CI can create bottlenecks when joining multiple complex branches. Full pipeline visibility provides tools to simplify branches so even complex merges are manageable.

Emphasizing and Supporting DevOps Visibility

Time and energy are in short supply, and people waste an enormous amount when they don’t have what they need to do their jobs. Visibility is foundational because it provides the insights necessary to get work done. It encompasses everything from situational awareness to version control, planning tools, traceability, auditability and compliance. To balance all that, you need to look at seven different areas:  

 

Plans

Environments

System changes

Without insight into required use cases and planned work, you could face redundancies, missed benchmarks, solutions overlap, scope creep and more.  

You need a clear view of your environment to follow your software development life cycle (SDLC). Otherwise, there will be uncertainty over work in progress, versus work ready for deployment, and how to prioritize the two. It will also lead to challenges managing multi-cloud development

System changes require tracking to ensure version consistency. Visibility also helps to avoid overwrites, metadata conflicts and the frequent introduction (or recurrence) of bugs. 

Architecture 

Value Streams 

Dependencies 

Visibility here is a challenge because architecture is hidden inside intricate relationships across metadata. Without clear governance, it can be difficult to decipher. 

Value streams center on flow. We need to understand the benefit of every project, as well as the risk. Without value stream visibility, we can’t recognize the flow of work and where those benefits and risks appear. 

Dependencies occur at every level of the software supply chain: teams, systems, packages and within a codebase. If we understand how these connect, we also see the potential impact of changes. 

Performance

Performance visibility is crucial to correctly identify bottleneck sources, work distribution and opportunities for improvement. Two broad approaches to tracking performance are:

  • Team-focused: Visibility into the four key DevOps metrics -- lead time, deployment frequency, change fail rate and time to restore -- gives a good indication of how the overall team works together. Throughput from the development team also helps in understanding work capacity. 
  • Individual-focused: Granular metrics may seem appealing, but this can do more harm than good when it comes to changing individual behaviors. Think of Goodhart’s law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." Metrics aren’t goals. They’re information on how we reach them. 

Ideally, performance visibility is based on the team. Then, if needed, you can trace back individual level problems. If not, you’re assured that your team is working effectively. 

How We Built DevOps Visibility 

If you want to support visibility, you need tools to increase transparency and reproducibility throughout the software development lifecycle. Here are a few visibility best practices to increase your DevOps ROI:

  • Adopt Version Control: Version control is an automated method of tracking changes to code. Updates are kept in an immutable log that developers and stakeholders can reference and roll back to if problems arise. This becomes the single source of truth that coders can turn to as they manage their updates.
  • Connect User Stories and Metadata: When you tie changes in version control to user stories, you get just that: A story that explains the who, what, where, when and why of changes.Specifically, you connect: 
  • The exact change 
  • When it was made
  • Who did it
  • Why they did it
  • If anything else was changed
  • The goal of the change
  • Historical changes to the same material
  • Organize the Architecture: Noisy metadata can obscure architecture visibility. Shine a light on your architecture by organizing it into folders and packages.  
  • Streamline the Full Stack: Salesforce probably isn’t the only SaaS in your cloud stack. The DevOps platform you choose should be one that supports multiple cloud hosted applications and helps you tie them all together. 
  • Enable Value Stream Management:  Value stream management starts with mapping. In this, you visualize workflow to understand where your bottlenecks lie. Once you locate these spots, you can look for causes. You can make improvements, eliminate waste and focus on your strongest value drivers. The key is connections. You need the full picture of all your tools, applications, SaaS solutions and other components in one single place. VSM platforms make it possible to tie these disparate systems together. 
  • Leverage DORA metrics: DORA metrics will test your overall process to see where you compare to others. These metrics are the same needed for performance visibility: lead time, deployment frequency, change fail rate and time to restore. DORA rates organizations into four categories: elite, high, medium and low. That can be applied across a wide range of questions to quantify results. 

Incorporating all of these components can improve your DevOps visibility, shining a light on the places in your process where value is stuck. Once you understand the bottlenecks that your organization faces, you can start resolving them. Visibility gives you the information you need to turn your attention further down the pipeline. Then you can begin to increase quality, improve your speed to deployment, start innovating and finally achieve resilient development processes.

 

 

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