I recently started a new program called
Coffee with Digital Trailblazers
on LinkedIn. We typically meet on Fridays at 11am ET and discuss a selected
topic on leading digital transformation. Two weeks ago, we chatted about how
to become a Digital Trailblazer, and this past week we discussed DevOps in
SMBs and nontech companies.
Note: Because of my travel and holiday schedule,
the next episode of Coffee with Digital Trailblazer
is on Tuesday, November 22 at 11am, where we’ll discuss the topic:
Developing Your Business Acumen. You can also subscribe to the
Coffee with Digital Trailblazer Page
to find the link to the next episode.
I’ve written about how
SMBs are different when driving digital transformation
compared to tech companies and large enterprises. Generally, SMBs have
similar challenges and must develop technology advantages versus
competitors, improve customer experiences, become more data-driven, innovate
digital offerings, reduce tech debt, and secure the business – but without
the same budget, skills, and process maturity found at many tech and large
SMBs must transform, but with different tools, simplified processes, faster
decision-making, strategic partnerships, and great leadership.
Identify DevOps practices that quickly demonstrate business value
CI/CD and automating deployments
get the lion’s share of attention on DevOps practices because it helps tech
companies and enterprises deploy apps more frequently, efficiently, and
reliably. That’s because tech companies and enterprises have the resources
to develop cloud-native (and proprietary) microservices, applications, and
other tech capabilities.
But SMBs? They’re developing and modernizing many more apps than a decade
ago, but not always in proprietary code. Many SMBs will look to configure
integrate with iPaaS, leverage
low-code tools, and
deploy no-code to citizen developers
as alternatives and often better options than developing proprietary
Joanne told the story of a manufacturing client that implemented
infrastructure as code (IaC) as their first DevOps practice. SMBs looking to
move apps to public clouds have many benefits by automating the
infrastructure rather than using manual and often poorly documented
The key lesson is that SMBs should seek the DevOps practice that yields the
greatest benefits. IaC, monitoring, AIOps, GitOps, or another DevOps
discipline may be a better first step than CI/CD.
DIY DevOps or seek an MSP? SMBs target sustainable DevOps
Once one or more DevOps practices are prioritized, SMBs can either
build the skills and best practices internally or seek outside help.
Sarbjeet suggested that for some of the more technical areas around
supporting cloud infrastructures, configuring Kubernetes clusters, or
managing security, SMBs may be better off with a managed service provider
Sure, SMBs can hire or train for these skills, but there’s considerable
knowledge needed in implementing architectural best practices. If the
configuration requires ongoing support and is likely to change, SMBs may
achieve results faster and have lower ongoing costs by partnering rather
than using a do-it-yourself approach.
Another reason to consider MSPs is the difficulty of retaining engineering
talent. Whereas enterprises can have a team of engineers focused on any
DevOps practice area, that’s less likely in SMBs. If only one or just a few
engineers understand how to debug a CI/CD pipeline, update an IaC script, or
add new alerts to a monitoring tool, then that’s a risk SMBs should address
Sustainable DevOps implies that lifecycle management is considered early in
the engineering process. Tech teams at SMBs avoid fancy tools or complex
implementations, knowing that even if they successfully deploy them, they
will be hard to maintain. A minimally viable solution is more important than
a robust, generalized, and highly extendable implementation.
Research DevOps tech fit for SMB adoption
SMBs may not want to embrace top quadrants, waves, and ratings from analyst
firms that primarily target large enterprises. SMB leaders must go deeper
into the ratings and review which companies of similar industry, size, and
complexity have short and long-term success implementing solutions under
- Platforms that require significant configuration and programming
Tech that requires significant training before getting started or requires
Pricing that’s out of reach for SMBs or requires significant scale for
Roadmaps that target large enterprise complexities that have little value
- User experiences that are too cumbersome for SMBs with less time to waste
So yes, DevOps is important for SMBs, but the roadmap, tools, and practices
will likely differ from strategies that large enterprises employ.