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How to Close the Velocity Gap - Part 2

May 26, 2016

In part one of this two-part column, I examined the genesis of the so-called “Velocity Gap” and the problems it creates for IT organizations. Now I will lay out the steps you can take to close the Velocity Gap and hasten your evolution from the Keeper of IT Systems hiding in the data center to a high-profile business services provider. 

In case you missed Part 1, here’s a quick recap. DevOps teams’ rate of change and business enablement is outpacing NetOps teams’ abilities.  The result is the ever-widening Velocity Gap’ between NetOps and DevOps. Closing the divide requires creating a Generative Culture that fosters continuous improvement and agility to help IT rapidly adapt to business needs.

For more on Generative Culture and the advantages it offers over Pathological and Bureaucratic Cultures, check out my last column that draws from Professor Ron Westrom’s excellent 2004 paper, “A typography of organizational cultures”.

The first step is to determine whether your team, your executive leaders and the entire organization fosters a Generative Culture, or is stuck in one of the other two. I like the approach that team building consultant Andy Kelk has developed, based largely on Professor Westrom’s typology.

Begin by asking the entire group to rate how well they identify with 6 statements:

  1. On my team, information is actively sought.
  2. On my team, failures are learning opportunities, and messengers of them are not punished.
  3. On my team, responsibilities are shared.
  4. On my team, cross-functional collaboration is encouraged and rewarded.
  5. On my team, failure causes enquiry.
  6. On my team, new ideas are welcomed.

Use a 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) scale. Collect and aggregate the responses, and you will have a good understanding of how your organization is succeeding (high scores) or falling short (low scores). Then you will be able to identify areas of improvement and initiate the following actions to address the shortcomings:

  • High cooperation focused on THE GOAL: Create cross-functional teams for each functional area, with a focus on end-to-end systems and processes.  This enables shared responsibility, coordination of best practices and interlock.
  • Train the messengers: Empower problem solving to more effectively surface issues and solve them.  Empower all workers to raise concerns and continuously improve the org.
  • Share risks: Performance, availability, reliability, security and ultimately organizational productivity/profitability are everyone’s responsibility.  Automation, analytics and anomaly detection enable collaboration and risk reduction.
  • Break down silos: Co-locate team members in the workplace, use matrix teams, host cross-functional meals and use social tools to encourage workforce integration.
  • Failure leads to inquiry, not blame:  Hold blameless and rankless postmortems. Focus on the conditions and dependencies that trigger failures, as well as solving them.  Start with heart and have a results-focused crucial IT conversation. Don’t place blame on people.
  • Encourage experimentation: Experimentation time. Give employees freedom to explore new ideas that could lead to great outcomes and value. Encourage learning fast, curiosity, and accept not all ideas will succeed (don’t penalize failure, learn from it).

As I pointed out in my last column, the 2015 State of DevOps report that Puppet Labs prepares every year provides clear evidence of how improving IT performance improves organizational performance. IT demonstrates its business value, and is no longer just a cost center on the balance sheets.

As tax paying citizens, consider a national government organization with 100,000 employees with an average wage cost of $32.30 per hour ($0.54 per minute). Your work to ensure the performance of IT systems, apps and the network remain consistent and high, including for those users who work in branch offices. As a result, you save each employee one minute per day. Just 60 seconds. Doesn’t sound like much. Yet, the results will be a $54,000 gain in daily productivity. That adds up to a $13.5 million productivity gain in just one year!  If an organization continuously improves, reducing the end-to-end time to complete transactions, significant gains can be made over time.

SD-WAN can play a key role in fostering a Generative Culture and positioning IT as a business driver. For example, you can leverage it to redesign end-to-end IT infrastructure to deliver 2-5x higher business transaction throughput of business applications at 40-60 percent the cost of traditional network infrastructure.  SD-WAN provides a performance-centric, application-aware infrastructure foundation which is generative in nature for IT teams, and can be extended to include advanced performance capabilities and processes.

Get started continuously improving your IT culture today.  Investing in IT tools isn’t enough, to be the best you have to invest in capabilities and culture too.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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