Accelerate software delivery by practicing Lean DevOps

The Lean methodology focuses on increasing efficiency and reducing waste -- practices that can also streamline DevOps projects. Review the benefits of combining the two approaches.

Since the 1980s, Lean approaches have sought to cut out inefficient processes, leaving only what needs to be done. When applied to software development, Lean reduces the amount of resources expended across the development process, with a focus on continuous improvement and providing value to the organization and end customer.

Lean software development often faces pushback from those who view it as overly rigid, limiting flexibility and opportunities for innovation. Combining the Lean and DevOps methodologies, however, can provide the checks and balances that many DevOps approaches need to speed up software delivery.

Although Lean has historically focused on code development, organizations can now find DevOps tools that integrate Lean concepts. Atlassian embraces the CALMS approach in its DevOps software, and Microsoft builds Lean approaches into its Azure DevOps platform.

Benefits of Lean DevOps

DevOps is meant to make the journey from development to operational code as swift and smooth as possible. Without controls, however, it can be easy to push poor code into the operational environment, which can severely weaken an organization's business capabilities.

Value is a key focus of Lean -- and something that is missing in many DevOps approaches. Lean pulls the business into development discussions, helping to minimize negative feedback if the final code does not meet expectations.

Adding elements of the Lean methodology can provide the following benefits to DevOps processes:

  • Improved quality. Focusing on only necessary components eliminates project bloat and needless code that can decrease overall software quality.
  • Increased efficiency. Weeding out aspects that do not add value means that projects have fewer processes and outcomes to focus on. This leads to greater efficiency in product delivery and results in faster delivery times.
  • Lower costs. By compressing their points of focus and amount of code, organizations can save time and money in the overall development process.
  • Higher DevOps team morale. When IT operations staff receive better-quality code with less nonuseful overhead, it is easier for them to roll out, monitor and maintain software.
  • Tighter feedback loops. Following a Lean approach simplifies root cause analysis of any issues that arise, as there are fewer "nice-to-have" code pieces in use. In addition, focusing only on what the business requires can reduce the overall number and frequency of issues. And quicker, more direct feedback to development teams helps them rapidly create and roll out fixes and workarounds.
  • Better customer satisfaction. A close focus on what is required better addresses the needs of internal and end-user customers. This is likely to drive loyalty and repeat business for external customers and create a better work environment for internal customers.

Combining Lean, Agile and DevOps

Due to market dynamics, there are few periods of stasis in which a platform is not undergoing some change. In addition, few components of an overall IT platform are completely airlocked from others: The integration of enterprise apps and services now means that there is little chance of taking systems completely out of service to apply updates.

To successfully manage business demands while simultaneously improving systems, organizations need a solid, well-considered approach to the whole IT environment -- from first thoughts to running code in the operational environment. Combining Lean, Agile and DevOps is the best way to ensure success.

Lean can identify shortcomings an organization possesses prior to beginning any work. By using Lean to identify necessary changes and assess their value, Scrum teams can ensure the overall project provides the fastest return on currently untapped value. Meanwhile, Agile practices improve the efficiency of development workflows, and DevOps provides the underlying processes and automations required to ensure the organization and its customers gain access to value as soon as possible.

Combining these approaches also enables the most effective continuous development and improvement approach possible, creating feedback loops from users and IT operations staff back into development and lines of business. This is then followed by iterations of Lean value identification combined with Agile waste reduction and value maximization.

Next Steps

Develop a DevOps branching strategy to promote efficiency

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