6 Ways Business Analysts and Product Owners Contribute to Successful DevOps
If it seems like everyone is talking about and doing DevOps, you are not imagining things! It is a common initiative in many organizations! So, do BAs and Product Owners have anything to do with DevOps, or is this just an all technical, code, automation, and deployment thing?
Let’s break it down:
According to Gartner, “DevOps represents a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach. DevOps emphasizes people (and culture), and seeks to improve collaboration between operations and development teams. DevOps implementations utilize technology— especially automation tools that can leverage an increasingly programmable and dynamic infrastructure from a life cycle perspective.”
Some common DevOps practices include:
Continuous Delivery: Delivering software continuously with automated build, test, release. Continuous delivery requires the team to plan in small chunks that deliver value to users. This means a cross-functional team that can build a feature end-to-end and through the full tech stack (or part that is needed to deploy and get the user feedback and data insights). This planning requires analysis and prioritization from a customer value perspective and can’t be done without a strong product ownership skill set which often includes the BA as well. Hand-offs between teams and waiting for other teams to get work done is a continuous delivery killer!
Continuous and Automated Testing: Having testing that is automated, automated tests built as the team codes. Yes, there needs to be infrastructure for this, and also user scenarios to test, and small increments to build tests for. Without small and implementable increments and user scenarios, there isn’t much test automation to build without risking rework or delays in building the automated tests.
Continuous Integration: Continuous integration is about integrating new code as it is built rather than waiting for a release. This also requires small chunks of code to be integrated in. Integrating in chunks that cannot be independently deployed creates code dependency and version chaos. So, here again, we are back to the critical analysis of small increments of value and planning to ensure the integration is simple and not dependent or laden with rework.
Continuous Monitoring: Continuous monitoring of the system performance also means monitoring this in terms of how the system is performing from a user and customer point of view. Determining what the monitor and assessing the data from this needs to have PO and BA input to ensure the right things are being monitored and the right remediation priorities, processes, and people are involved.
Most of these practices have a strong root in the planning process which the Product Owner owns. These practices also have strong roots in the feedback process which the PO also owns to ensure the urgency of feedback is on everyone’s mind.
6 Ways BAs and POs contribute to successful DevOps:
1 – BAs and POs lead the minimum viable thinking on the team: Minimum Viable Thinking: Defining, prioritizing, and planning small increments to release. It’s impossible to make continuous deployment and integration work if the increments are not small, valuable chunks. BAs and POs ensure the team is focused on minimum viable thinking and small increments of value.
2 – BAs and POs lead the customer focus on the team: Customer Focus: Prioritizing and planning in small increments helps us leverage the feedback loop and innovate better. A customer-focused backlog and acceptance criteria help build automated testing scenarios and maintain them more easily. BAs and POs make sure the priorities drive towards demonstrating customer value.
3 – BAs and POs lead the urgency for feedback from users: Reduce waste, rework, and risk by finding issues earlier in the process. BAs and POs help find and prioritize these into immediate action and w/ customer feedback. BAs and POs make user and customer feedback a priority so that issues are found early.
4 – BAs and POs make sure the right scenarios are being tested: Automated Testing: Clear acceptance criteria that lays out the customer scenarios helps build and maintain automated tests. BAs and POs work with the team and QA engineers to make sure the right scenarios are being tested.
5 – BAs and POs look after the customer experience: End-to-end analysis of the customer experience and tech stack helps the team reduce hand-offs and dependencies. BAs and POs look after the customer experience end-to-end and connect it to the full tech stack and data flow.
6 – BAs and POs manage the backlog and limit WIP: Limiting WIP: POs can help the team focus on continuous delivery and flow by supporting the team in limiting the WIP and not focus on finishing rather than starting. BAs and POs manage the backlog and ensure not to push more work into the team, they help the team focus on finishing a small increment for feedback.
How does this help with agile and digital transformations?
These practices and focus areas for BAs and POs not only help drive agile values and principles but also help drive digital transformation success. Both agile and digital transformations often get off on a challenging start due to a lack of focus on the customer experience. This can happen in DevOps initiatives as well. When all of these efforts neglect putting the customer at the center of the work by using customer-centered value increments, customer feedback loops, and customer scenario-driven testing & deployment; the benefits of Agile, Digital and DevOps easily fade.