How to Break Down Silos to Build the Perfect DevOps Team

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Summary:

A degree of specialization is essential in every company, but it can lead to dangerous divisions and an outdated structure. Breaking down your silos initiates the cultural change that’s required to build an effective DevOps team and fully realize the potential benefits of everyone’s talents.

A degree of specialization is absolutely essential in every company, but it can lead to dangerous divisions and an outdated structure. In a large enterprise, that structure is often very complex, composed of lots of independent silos, and even silos within silos. All this division seriously hampers speed and agility. Departments pull in different directions, communication is cumbersome, and few people can see the big picture, which makes it difficult to suggest positive changes.

When visibility and tooling is restricted to your own domain or silo, you have little incentive to care about what happens when it passes out of your sphere of influence. Delays build resentment and frustration because there’s a lack of understanding about the reasons. Silos are a barrier to the kind of large-scale cultural change that’s required to build an effective DevOps team and fully realize the potential benefits of everyone’s talents.

So, how do you go about breaking down these silos and bringing all your specialists together?

Building a Pipeline

Part of the answer lies in the technology you employ. A well-defined continuous delivery pipeline will bridge development and operations, creating shared responsibility and ownership. Everyone has to work together to get the code live. Improved end-to-end visibility helps create a shared focus on the end result, and it encourages everyone to pitch in and work out how to tackle bottlenecks and eradicate or mitigate errors.

Shared Goals

This isn’t just about implementing the right technology, though. It’s also an organizational change management problem. The perfect DevOps team will have a clear set of shared goals and objectives.

For this transformation to work, you need to entice senior-level executives to embrace and own the process. They don’t want to hear about the granular technical benefits; you need to build a business case to push continuous delivery and DevOps forward. Once the executives understand the business value, they’ll be more receptive to the kind of change that’s needed. It’s also important to engage middle management, because they’ll play a key role in tracking down the barriers in your organization and working to facilitate change.

Lines of communication must be opened, shared objectives must be established, and executives must lead by example. A memo is not going to cut it. Practical changes in the way people meet and review results must be made. Executives need to engage and demonstrate that their different teams should work together toward a common aim. The whole DevOps team should be able to tune into the big picture and then see the big picture on a daily basis through tools that provide shared visibility.

A Goal Worth Fighting For

Silos and the mentality they encourage can be extremely detrimental to any organization. They reduce productivity, chew through resources, and sometimes even sabotage wider company goals. They can have a devastating impact on morale. The silo system is never going to enable you to get the best from your talented employees.

You can’t break down those silos and achieve the perfect DevOps team without blending the right mindset with the right technology. Quality tools will facilitate cooperation and collaboration among your experts, as well as provide the end-to-end visibility that allows them to determine the best course of action overall. A solid commitment from all corners will drive the change through and break down those walls permanently. Cross-functional teams can get more done, and they can get it done faster.

It will not be an easy task. Silos are often deeply entrenched and rifts with a long history never heal overnight, but it can be done. In working toward DevOps, it’s vital to remember to measure the success of your execution. The importance of collaboration has to be reinforced repeatedly until it becomes routine. Team members must be held accountable individually and collectively for their success or failure to meet goals.

By centralizing responsibility and setting shared objectives that are all about delivering business value, wasted time spent waiting is minimized. Team members support each other and think critically about how to improve overall efficiency. Everyone has a clear incentive to deliver the best product possible, and a mandate to streamline processes.

It takes effort to get everyone striving for the same goal, but there’s tremendous business value in a shared vision.

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