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It's time to dismiss these 7 DevOps collaboration myths

DevOps is taking root in IT organizations across the globe -- but that doesn't mean it's well understood. Misconceptions persist, but they can be conquered.

Collaboration is a critical component of DevOps culture. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about how DevOps teams can -- or should -- collaborate most effectively.

Let's look at seven common myths surrounding DevOps collaboration -- and how to dispel them.

1. You can't teach an old dog new tricks

There's a misconception that senior staff can't learn DevOps and its unique collaboration requirements, but with age comes adaptability. Some developers have suffered the frustrations of operational silos and overwrought Waterfall development processes more than once through their careers. Indeed, some senior staff members might prove difficult to teach, but there will be junior developers who'll struggle as well.

To appeal to the senior staff's motivations and frustrations with DevOps adoption, treat people as people and disregard stereotypes. Work to win allies among the top developers and solution architects early in the DevOps transformation. Invite them to join in the decision making and seek their counsel about the collaboration issues that hold DevOps teams back. More importantly, work together to develop process improvements and technology solutions to problems as they arise. Offer ample training opportunities -- especially just-in-time training. Above all, have some budget and management support to back up your requests.

2. DevOps collaboration is only for developers and sys admins

Misconceptions still abound that DevOps collaboration only occurs between developers and system administrators. However, data and other information need to flow to other teams, such as technical writers, marketing and even the finance department. For example, a technical writer might need access to early builds in the dev or test environment.

Including nondevelopers in the DevOps process can be tricky at first. Attack this problem with DevOps collaboration at two levels. First, open the DevOps toolchain to authorized staff outside the development and ops teams. Give them appropriate permissions to view data that supports the work they need to perform. Second, offer a job aid -- or, better yet, training -- to help them plug into the process. Look for self-service tools as another avenue. For example, third-party analytics tools and dashboards embedded in the toolchain enable stakeholders to access the data and reporting they need, without interrupting developers' progress.

3. Diverse teams can't collaborate

If somebody says a diverse team can't collaborate, it's more about the people on the team than the diversity.

Trust falls and other gimmicky team-building exercises won't disprove this DevOps collaboration myth. To fix this problem, enterprises must start at the top, with the values they instill into their team culture. Teams must celebrate their differences. Leadership must cultivate an environment that welcomes well-constructed -- yet dissenting -- viewpoints as more than a C-suite talking point. Nontraditional views and perspectives are a vital aspect of diverse collaboration. For example, include technical writers during technical debates and listen to their views. They might see something developers don't.

4. Tools don't matter

The implementation of a difficult-to-use DevOps collaboration tool is an invitation for developers to work around it. And when developers and other technical staff work around a tool through shadow IT or other means, it can lead to a loss in productivity and reporting, and even potential security risks.

To mitigate this risk, make educated choices about DevOps tools. Pilot tools on small projects with a cross-section of the development and operations teams. Get their feedback before committing to the purchase of a DevOps tool.

5. Soft skills aren't necessary

Another common DevOps myth is that soft skills, such as diplomacy, empathy and oral communications, aren't necessary. In reality, developers and operations must bury their hatchets to become integral collaborators in software delivery and services.

Another common misconception is that teams must be co-located for DevOps collaboration to work.

To rectify soft skills deficiencies, begin in the hiring pipeline. Include soft skills in job descriptions and emphasize them during the interview process. Soft skills must also be part of annual employee reviews. Add team communications to onboarding processes. Training options include written job aids to set the communications expectations and guidelines. For a larger organization, the human resources department might offer soft skills training for employees. However, the challenge with such courses is finding time for developers to take them.

6. DevOps eliminates traditional IT roles

DevOps doesn't mean developers become database architects, cybersecurity specialists and cloud engineers overnight. Instead, DevOps culture breaks down traditional silos between these teams -- and others, including networking, security and quality assurance -- to deliver continuous value to customers and stakeholders.

To get these groups together -- some with opposing political agendas -- might require a form of détente depending on the corporate climate. Redress misconceptions about IT roles with transparency across teams through collaboration and communication. Hold managers and senior team members accountable to set the example for their organizations.

7. DevOps requires teams' physical proximity

Another common misconception is that teams must be co-located for DevOps collaboration to work. Some managers still think staff must be in the same room to work together as a team. However, remote workers, third-party contractors and cloud service providers play increasingly significant roles in the delivery lifecycle.

To quash this misconception requires the right tools and frameworks to support communication and collaboration along the DevOps lifecycle. Collaboration is about continuous improvement. All team members need to know that from day one.

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