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Closing the gap between development and operations

Two countries divided by a common language?

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A few years ago, when I still had what could loosely be classed in this industry as a ‘proper’ job, I happened to be sitting in a meeting – the purpose of which was to plan the deployment of a new application. And things were not going well.

It didn’t help that the application had already been written, and the stated goal was to get the thing live within the following few weeks. It also didn’t help that it was the first time the head of IT operations, who was in the meeting, had even heard that the application existed. Unsurprisingly, he said that the timescales were impossible – and worse, he pointed out that the application wouldn’t be manageable by his team, not as defined at least.

We see plenty being written about how IT should work closer with the business. But do we still have communications divides within the IT department itself? Examples such as this one are hopefully not too common (though do let us know if your opinions differ). However, from the outsider’s perspective it does seem that we have two worlds, frequently operating in isolation.

As a result, we can end up with distinct differences of philosophy. Take configuration management, for example. From an ops perspective, this is a mechanism for dealing with planned changes to the IT environment. Meanwhile, from a developer perspective, it is a mechanism for managing the evolving state of software in development. Very similar, and yet very different – and as far as I know, thus far there has been little success in mapping one against the other – ITIL V3 may claim to deal with pre-deployment configuration management, but it does so from the perspective of ops, and not dev.

Meanwhile, the developer world continues to evolve. We ran a series of workshops a few weeks ago on the topic of agile development. But the one topic that didn’t come up was how frequent deliveries of software impose an additional load on IT operations. One can only imagine how the meeting above would have gone, if Mr Head-of-Ops had been told that there would be a new delivery every fortnight for the next two years.

Perhaps it is the case that for maximum efficiency, we need the development world to operate separately from operations so that each side can get on with their own tasks in the way that makes the most sense to them. Or perhaps we should recognise the issues caused by the historical separation between the two groups, and be striving to close the gap?

What do you think? We’d love to hear your views. ®

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