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A New Year’s DevOps Resolution? Be Smart About It!


So you’ve made your 2018 DevOps resolutions. Good for you. Remember – more than half of all resolutions fail! Read on to find out how you can be on the right side of that statistic!

Like any New Year’s resolution, DevOps resolutions can fail because they’re not the right resolutions. A resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons:

  1. It’s a resolution based on what someone else is telling you to do for the business.
  2. It’s too vague and not tied to the business as a whole.
  3. You don’t have a realistic plan for keeping your DevOps resolution.

It’s time to adopt a smarter approach to DevOps—and be SMART about your DevOps resolutions. SMART—an acronym that has appeared in management literature for over five decades. It refers to a management discipline that calls for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals and planning. A SMART DevOps approach can lay the foundation for successfully achieving any DevOps resolution for the New Year.

Specific. Having specific, and collectively understood, goals as part of any DevOps resolutions is really important. Vague statements declaring “we want to improve our DevOps management” are not the basis for leading performance improvement. Make sure that your specific goals are clear to everyone by asking, “What does this mean for you (for your team)?” You must also have a plan that outlines what you want to improve, by how much and by when. Having specific goals enables you to build a DevOps Roadmap that everyone can agree on. The Roadmap will be the path to achieving your resolutions. This specificity provides your team with a breakdown of the multi-faceted work components as a sequence of activities that build upon where you are today and your current organizational capabilities.

Measurable. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This may seem obvious if your resolution is fitness or weight loss related, but for DevOps resolutions, DRC believes DevOps measurement should tie directly to business goals that encompass people, process and technology. Moreover, characteristics of good metrics enable organizations to share common goals with a clear vision of the desired outcomes. These metrics must be obtainable, reviewable, incorruptible and actionable. Documenting progress with your DevOps resolutions will reinforce the right behaviors, no matter what these resolutions may be.

Achievable. Progress won’t happen just because you want it to happen. Resolutions can be unrealistic and unachievable. To determine if your 2018 DevOps resolutions are achievable, you must have a handle on the technical debt service needed for the organization. It is important to know the root cause of the problems impeding achievement of your DevOps resolutions. Technical debt can undermine any intentions for improvement. Understand why performance has been lagging and how technical debt impacts the business objectives. Consider that technical debt reflects the extra work effort, which arises when uncoordinated decisions and short-run priorities are used to develop solutions instead of choosing best practices.

Targeting technical debt can go a long way in achieving the goals of any DevOps resolutions. It is reasonable for one of your DevOps resolutions to be fully assessing the organizational environment in order to identify the areas of practice detracting from your ability to either reduce costs, improve responsiveness, or both.

Relevant. Do your resolutions really matter to you and your organization?  If so, the processes you choose to achieve them will be tied to a critical value stream for your organization.

Choosing SMART DevOps for your 2018 resolutions based upon value streams will provide a framework for analyzing the current state of a business process and designing outcomes that deliver value and quality improvements with real impact on business performance. For a DevOps environment, value stream targeting will assure relevant outcomes from your resolutions.

Time-bound. Any resolution must be tied to time. Like “achievable,” the timeline for your DevOps resolutions should be realistic, too. Give yourself enough time to realize your resolutions and be sure to consider intermediate targets that can guide you in your New Year’s journey. Include time for measurement, interactive feedback and mid-course corrections in your estimates.

Ensuring a Happy and Fulfilling DevOps New Year!

Just saying that you are committed to being better in 2018 is not enough.  You need to give yourself your best shot at success. That means setting DevOps resolutions that are SMART so you can be a SMARTer DevOps organization. Every DevOps environment is different and will call for its own unique set of priorities. Ask yourself, ‘are my intentions for DevOps focused on the right priorities?’ Knowing your priorities and putting them into a SMART framework will enable you to set in motion a DevOps resolution that can be successful.

About the authors: Kevin Fisher and Callie McDowell are senior consultants with Dartmouth Research & Consulting. For over 30 years, DRC has been designing and implementing management solutions for technology organizations that change the way businesses are successful. To learn more, visit