DevOps transformation for Managed Services

I know, DevOps is still a buzzword. IT is often used to rebrand an old team or practice, and give more sexiness to a marketing slideset. I have seen it used to describe what is essentially an automation team within an Ops team. Good start, but missing the point.

Anyway, having been a major actor in a devops transformation, and witness to many, I wanted to give some advice to anyone out there patient enough to listen to me. I think most of what I am going to say will seem trivial, but it would help a few of us to put some words on what is happening to good ol’ outsourcing.

I am talking right now about DevOps transformation, but specifically when it happens to a Managed Services team, as in an outsourcing company, or an MSP. This is a difficult spot, as such teams should be able to provide support for DevOps organizations form their customers, and even help them.

I will skip the contract and SLA part, as it is a very tricky subject, at least for now.

I have seen two ways of approach the subject. First is full ahead transformation, no quarters, no mercy. The second is building a new team dedicated to DevOps, in parallel of the existing one.

I have only experienced the second first hand. It was an opportunity as we were bringing a new set of skills and customers into an existing managed services org. I chose to break from the past, and build a new set of tools and processes almost outside of the existing system. This creates the possibility to create and prove the viability of these new ways of working and interacting with your customers.

The difficult part is where you have to merge with the existing tools and processes. For example, we had to start with the monitoring tools we had, as we could not ask our 24*7 monitoring team to have multiple dashboards and tools. The fact that we were successful with the other tools and habits we developped allowed us to push for a new monitoring solution a few months after the initial move. And we kept the momentum after that 🙂

The other way I have witnessed, to transform the whole team at once, is challenging and cannot be carried by anyone on the team. I would advise that you start this path if you have a sufficient executive weight, or support from the executive team, because it will be a disruptive path. This is good, but the cost might be high, both in terms of people inside the team being disgruntled and maybe leaving, and in termes of your existing customers (and prospects) who might not understand what you are undetaking. The uptake is that you avoid having two different teams working with different mindsets and toolsets.

Obviously I would recommend reading the Devops Handbook, and the Phoenix Project, to get a basic understanding of what you are getting yourself into 🙂

Next up, I will try and help you target which team and/or customer would be a best fit to start your devops journey, stay tuned!

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