Monday, 2 March 2015

Next Gen DevOps and Software Testing

In his book, Next Gen DevOps, Grant outlines the historic path along which DevOps emerged and then describes how the way it is currently performed is fundamentally flawed. He describes a number of commonly experienced frustrations and inhibitors, both internal and external to the DevOps team, which people in other IT areas will unfortunately recognise. He shows how these impact the ability of the DevOps movement and its practitioners to drive forward their vision of what DevOps would ideally evolve into. Common issues other practice areas will recognise include; a lack of understanding of DevOps resourcing profiles by HR, a verbal agreement to the concepts of DevOps by senior management, but a fear to commit to the corporate and operational change needed to realise the vision, a continuing siloed approach that prevents the establishment of cross-functional, integrative product-based teams that are central to Grant’s view of modern DevOps practice.

Much of what Grant outlines in his book will ring familiar to software test practitioners. I and others have long espoused the value and indeed the criticality, of positioning software test practitioners as an embedded part of the ‘application development team’, ensuring cross-team process synergy1. A term I use in preference to names such as Dev team, the Test team, Ops team, Support team, etc. which serve only to reinforce the ‘silo’ us-and-them perspective. The concept of having these as teams who operate in a non-integrated way is less and less meaningful in context of today’s perspectives on efficient development approaches. Clearly defined practice domains remain important, the sheer scale of today’s IT profession requires a level of specialisation, but this is not the same as being siloed.

Taking this further, as we mature the adaptive, pragmatic, delivery focused approaches that are justifiably popular at this time, and possibly emerge into a post-Agile paradigm, approaches that were established in an era where predictive development models were overlaid onto functionaly siloed teams are, I would suggest, as good as irrelevant.

Services or Products?
Except for the most trivial of application development related work, it simply isn’t possible to deliver anything meaningful, from a technology, business or market perspective, without cross-domain collaboration. This is true because of two key factors; a) large scale application complexity is now so high, that no single person or team can perform all practices effectively and, b) the integrated nature of technology and cross-over of practice areas means that practitioners in one field will already be working in a cross-domain manner.

However, we also need to shift perspectives and come back to another key point in Grant’s Next Gen DevOps book, that rings true for us as software test practitioners and ask; are we delivering a discrete set of software testing services in support of some application development work or are we providing a suite of testing practices, alongside other practice areas, in broader support for the delivery of a software product requested by the business?

If we think more broadly than our technology domains, considering also other domains across the wider business and reflecting on why we’re employed by the business, it will be evident that we’re not really engaged in testing some development output, but instead we’re testing an aspect of a product the business has requested. With even a trivial reflection, it’s apparent that all of these practice areas for given domains need to be drawn together to support not just application development, but to support product development from conception to retirement, in context not of the Software Development Life Cycle, but instead of the Product Development Life Cycle2.

Conclusion
In conclusion on these limited points; while Next Gen DevOps is proposed as a model for DevOps, it discusses many concepts that run parallel to our area of concern, that of the role of software testing practice in the broader business context when delivering software products requested by the business.

Mark.

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Learn More...

You can get a copy of Grants book on Amazon Store
If you're on twitter, follow Grant at: https://twitter.com/grjsmith with hashtag #DevOps
While you're about it, pay a visit to his website over at: http://nextgendevops.com/ 

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References

[1] Crowther, Mark, (2005) “Cross Team Process Synergy” [online] Available at: http://cyreath.co.uk/papers/Cyreath_Cross_Team_Process_Synergy.pdf [Accessed 02-mar-15]

[2] Crowther, Mark, (2009) “Life Cycles – Course 1, Session 1”, pp. 3-4


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