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HP's DevOps journey: How we made the transition


By: Ronda Swaney


The DevOps journeyTransforming an enterprise to use a DevOps process is no easy task. Changing entrenched systems and mindsets often proves difficult, turning the DevOps journey into a series of fits and starts. We asked James Chen, vice president of R&D IT, HP, and Rafael Garcia, director of R&D IT, HP, how they approached DevOps. Below, they share the insights learned from HP's transition.


Q: When choosing where to start a DevOps journey, what applications or processes make good candidates?

James Chen: There is no magic formula where you decide this application or this capability can be transformed by DevOps. Focus on business outcomes to choose which applications should go through DevOps. If you can show improved business metrics to the customer, that adds motivation.


Rafael Garcia: You also need to choose based on risk versus return. DevOps means moving faster and opening yourself up to frequent change. You may have to drop policies and processes for the sake of speed. Sometimes that introduces more risk. You have to decide if the frequency of change offers real value. If all you've done is drop processes for the sake of speed, then you haven't received true business value from the change.


Q: What were some of the limiting mindsets that had to be overcome when you started?

RG: Many see DevOps as a threat to stability but, when done correctly, it creates stability.


JC: Exactly. There is a perception that DevOps introduces significant risk into your environment. This mindset exists at all levels of an organization. Before DevOps, six to 12 months would lapse between application updates. Because groups were not talking to each other, stress and chaos often occurred after a release, and it took energy and effort to stabilize the environment. When you tell managers that you want updates to happen every two weeks, they believe the same level of chaos and stress will be the result.


To some degree, we need education about DevOps. DevOps opens the way to make smaller changes in a more collaborative environment. All the key players are involved in the process from the beginning. More people know what has been changed so there is a better response to production issues. The result is a better business outcome and greater stability.


Q: When you lifted away old mindsets from your team, what was the result? Any surprises?

JC: One surprising outcome was greater trust between colleagues. Having more collaboration and less control actually created a trusting environment. People felt ownership of what they were trying to do. It made them feel more accountable to their customers. Previously, everybody optimized around their job function only. Now, teams see a holistic process that is optimized from end to end.


RG: Trust and empowerment energized the DevOps teams. A level of fun was introduced into the process. Before, there was finger-pointing and rule following. Now these teams are achieving things that they couldn't do before.


JC: Another surprise was how it became a learning opportunity for everyone. Developers learned about security, operations, support, and production. Operations learned about development and codification. People were excited to learn something that they had not been exposed to before. The learning process drove their motivation and enthusiasm.


RG: One reason that DevOps catches fire and spreads is because you knock down barriers. People have a natural desire to push boundaries, but they often find that the system works against them. DevOps helps remove systemic roadblocks. However, you don't replace the old system with chaos. You give your team the tools, knowledge, visibility, and transparency about what is going on in the environment. That's what awakens everyone. That's how it catches fire. You have one or two teams doing this. Other teams see what they're doing and decide they want to do it too. That's how the fire starts.


Q: With hindsight, what advice do you wish someone had given you before you began this process?

RG: Change happens at the individual level. People have years of experience using a traditional approach. When you say you want them to rethink how they do things, the initial reaction is pushback and fear. You have to work through a mindset shift with that individual to understand that we are trying to reach a common objective but without creating risk. The point isn't to create chaos; it's to maintain stability and avoid risk, but they need help to see how DevOps does that.


JC: Don't wait until you think your organization or people are ready. Start early, start small, and start with something where you can measure a business outcome.


Q: How has this experience allowed HP to help their own customers?

RG: We engage with a lot of customers when we tell the HP IT story. Through that we have seen firsthand a change in attitude about DevOps. Now, instead of greeting the idea with skepticism, people are asking how they can do what we're doing. They realize they can't move fast enough as a large-scale enterprise working in the traditional ways. It's a survival mentality that causes enterprises to change their mindset. We've helped them see that using the DevOps process inside the enterprise is doable.


This post offers more insights on DevOps. Or read the case study, Through the DevOps looking glass: Learnings from HP's own transformation initiative, for details on how HP uses DevOps to optimize application release and delivery.



About the author

Ronda SwaneyRonda Swaney


Content marketer focusing on IT, technology, and healthcare for CXOs, consultants, and entrepreneurs. Ronda advises clients on how to best communicate their messaging by taking complex material and simplifying it to engage both tech geeks and the uninitiated.


Connect with Ronda:

 Follow me on Twitter @RondaSwaney




DevOps interviewees

James Chen HP VP of R&D ITJames Chen


HP VP of R&D IT providing global tools and services in support of R&D and current product engineering. With over 18 years of Fortune 100 leadership positions, James led a range of functional organizations including Manufacturing, Operations, Product Development, P&L Consulting Service, and IT. James holds a PhD from Penn State University and an MBA from Duke University.


About the author


Rafael Garcia HP Director of Engineering for R&D ITRafael Garcia


HP Director of Engineering for R&D IT at Hewlett-Packard providing global tools and services in support of R&D and current product engineering. With 20 years’ experience in business and technology leadership roles, Rafael’s most recent focus is driving the adoption of DevOps concepts in HP IT and HP R&D with attention to the unique challenges of DevOps in the Enterprise.


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