Why startups need to implement DevOps
New startups enter the market every year, pushing forward technological advancements that improve our lives. However, 90 percent of these new ventures fail. That begs the question: If that many startups flop, is there a common thread among those that succeed?
Sure, funding matters, as does leadership, as does luck. But after years of working with emerging companies from different industries and regions, we’ve seen it over and over: Companies tend to succeed when they take a holistic approach to developing and delivering products. By “holistic,” we mean that the company approaches the whole cycle, from the software development to product release, as interrelated, with a strategic alignment of all teams involved.
That’s the essence of DevOps, a management concept based on merging a company’s development and operations teams. For startups, DevOps provides many of the most strategic must- and nice-to-haves that make quickly adapting to changing customer demands and continuously improving their products easier.
Automation is a fundamental principle behind the DevOps approach. It helps to solve many pain points typical for tech startups, particularly those related to scaling the business quickly when the time is right and cutting costs.
Perhaps most importantly, DevOps infuses a company with a certain mindset — one that promotes flexibility and agility within the dev team in particular. It’s key to startups maintaining their competitive advantage, but it does demand that managers commit to nurturing it in the company’s culture.
Since its origination 15 years ago, the idea of DevOps has been gaining popularity each year through vibrant communities of practice and has been widely adopted by companies across most industries, including Netflix, Adobe, Target, Walmart — and even the US government. With the ranks of our own clients, Dialogue, Thirty Madison, and Classpass — all startups at some point — also rely on DevOps.
In the traditional software development model, dev and ops teams work solo: The engineers do their thing and the operations folks do theirs, and never the twain shall meet. This approach leads to some obvious challenges, like the lack of timely communication between the teams, delay in product delivery, and reduced performance.
Conversely, DevOps is nothing but teamwork. It fuses processes managed separately by the development and operations teams throughout the entire software development lifecycle, from build through test to release. Ultimately, DevOps is a culture that nurtures effective collaboration within teams — one that paves the way to agile product delivery.
The DevOps culture is rooted in the “Three Ways” model. The first principle of this model is the adoption of systems thinking: It encompasses all roles involved in product development, including those of customers. The “second way” of the model implements a continuous feedback loop, which is essential for shorter response time and steady improvements of each product release based on customer experience. The third fundamental principle of DevOps is rooted in continual learning and experimentation, emphasizing the importance of strengthening interactions among people over processes and tools.
Four must-know DevOps concepts
The core of the DevOps model is a software delivery mechanism based on Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. Add in Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Deployment and you’ve got a workflow that’s a natural fit for startups aiming to release bug-free products and accelerate speed to market.
Continuous integration enables developers to merge code changes in a shared repository multiple times a day, followed by automated builds and tests. The benefit: a chance to make more frequent modifications in the code.
Ultimately, DevOps engineers can identify and fix bugs faster, which ensures software quality and speeds up product release. These practices help startups head off issues that could show up in the following development phases and refine the code throughout the whole software development cycle.
At this step, code changes are automatically built, tested, and prepared for release to the production environment, enabling the DevOps team to streamline the software delivery process and maintain quick and consistent releases to the end user upon each update.
Continuous monitoring helps to identify and address issues at the moment they occur and prevent failures in the future. An effective bug tracking system relies on automated alerts for error instances and implementing a continuous feedback loop.
Continuous deployment is an automated version of continuous delivery: It eliminates manual approval before releasing updates to production, ensuring regular and uninterrupted delivery of each new application version to end users.
Frequent releases bring the benefit of accelerated feedback loop, which is essential for developers to address performance issues and other defects faster and release high-quality builds.
Business benefits of implementing DevOps for startups
As the latest forecasts show, the global DevOps market is projected to grow from $7 billion in 2021 to $26 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 24.6 percent. And it really is a no-brainer: By adopting DevOps practices, a company can achieve rapid technological progress and deploy high-quality products to the market more quickly and less expensively.
Higher performance demands breaking down silos between development and operations teams. Automation of routine processes like testing, resolving detected issues, and releasing updates also frees up the dev team from performing mundane manual tasks, reducing errors and allowing engineers to focus on delivering high-quality and bug-free products to end users. At the same time, CI/CD practices help teams quickly detect and address issues so failures and rollbacks are minimized and system recovery time is reduced if a failure occurs.
Accelerated software delivery
DevOps relies on continuous testing of small chunks of code and iterating on feedback, so dev teams always have a software build that’s been tested and is ready for deployment — that’s key to more frequent releases to production. Besides speeding up a development workflow, iterative processes ensure high quality and security of products delivered to end users.
Costs cutting and faster ROI
Automating repetitive tasks that come with implementing DevOps practices in a startup culture minimizes the risk of errors. Expenses related to recovery from failure and rolling back product releases are reduced (or ideally eliminated).
Since engineers are free from heavy bug fixing, they have more time to develop and improve an application, and as we all know, better-quality code and streamlined software delivery reduce lead time and help to generate ROI faster.
Improved collaboration and communication
The DevOps philosophy promotes a work environment where development, operational, and QA teams unite and collaborate during the development cycle. Effective collaboration comes from building a culture of mutual trust and shared responsibility. The natural result of that healthy, trusting environment is higher performance and productivity among employees.
Plus, with the DevOps model, teams get to know the product being developed better and work together on executing different tasks. Communication barriers among people are inevitably dismantled along the way, and team members tend to embrace a spirit of continuous learning if they’re constantly learning from each other.
Enhanced customer experience
Hastening the software development process and enabling a continuous product delivery cycle with DevOps goes a long way toward helping startups retain customers and be proactive in the face of changing customer demands.
DevOps also supports the integration of reporting mechanisms for collecting customer feedback, which increases the chances of making release upgrades and fixing bugs until the end user is happy with a product.
Ultimately, decreased overall cost of software development due to shorter delivery cycles also shows up in a lower application price on the customer end, which is always a bonus when it comes to customer loyalty (as long as quality is paired with a reasonable price point of course).
DevOps as a service
Since DevOps is rife with not only technological but also cultural changes, teaming up with an experienced DevOps services provider will only make this transformation smoother.
When choosing a software development vendor, look for a company’s expertise in building DevOps solutions, as well as experience in full-cycle software development. A solid service provider will help you make the most of each stage of DevOps adoption by infusing agile product delivery, QA and testing automation, and transparency into your workflow.
When hiring an external DevOps team, pay attention if a vendor can integrate CI/CD best practices, microservices architecture, and DevSecOps into the development workflow.
However, keep in mind that, as with all software best practices, each team must find its own approach to implementing automation and tools. “Small, agile teams working in cowboy-startup mode may focus more on automating deployment as opposed to automating testing, for example, as constantly changing requirements can make test automation difficult,” says Dave Hecker, Vention CTO. The payoffs from DevOps can be even more significant for teams that build larger, more stable applications and frequently adopt continuous deployment and comprehensive test automation.
Your software development partner should also be able to assess your startup’s current DevOps maturity level to build an appropriate DevOps implementation strategy and select best-fit tools to better position your business for success.
At Vention, we’ve seen DevOps strategies unfold in different ways: Some companies start with heavy ops and automation from Day 1, while others gradually automate as pain points emerge. And we’ve seen clients find themselves in heavy growth mode while simultaneously fighting against cumbersome deployment processes — sometimes even manual ones — and losing cycles that could have been used for feature flow.
“When it comes to DevOps, it’s best to not wait too long,” Dave says.