Tech companies often have the people and skills to fully operationalize
DevOps practices (CI/CD, IaC, AIOps, etc.). They generate revenue from
technology services, so there’s a strong cultural motivation for dev and ops
to collaborate, while automation often has direct financial benefits. They
are also less likely to struggle with legacy systems, tech debt, and
outdated data centers.
Large enterprises with thousands of developers and applications are more
likely to focus on scaling agile – getting multiple agile teams to follow
scrum processes consistently, develop rigorous KPIs, and prioritize
practices that lower team interdependencies.
But small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often have different agile and
devops challenges and opportunities. With fewer people, they are less likely
to have all the DevOps skills than a tech company or need to address the
prescriptive processes associated with scaling agile. They focus more on
defining agile cultures and ways of working across the org – not just in
tech – and must prioritize which DevOps practices yield benefits.
What SMB problems and opportunities shape their agile and DevOps?
Dan Waddell, Chief Growth Officer of
XOR Security, shares a perspective on
agile in SMBs. “As a small business, we have to run our internal operations
and system development with an agile mindset,” he says. “With limited
resources, we have no choice but to be really smart in how we operate within
our engineering lifecycle.”
And what does being really smart entail? Dan continues, “Waterfall and its
linear processes just don’t work for us – we need to be able to collaborate
in near real-time and make very quick decisions. We truly practice what we
preach and share that ethos with our customers as we help introduce a more
DevSecOps-focused approach to application development.”
Collaborating in real-time, quick decision-making, and
shifting-left security practices
are all key to nimble SMBs that must work efficiently and deliver frequent
And what about managing cloud infrastructure, especially in medium-sized
businesses that might be in hybrid clouds with mission-critical apps
Lior Koriat, CEO of Quali, says, “It’s
important that SMBs plan for scale early to better manage their
infrastructure and processes. Think about the control and scalability of
your DevOps processes and teams and invest in tools that will simplify
developers’ access to infrastructure while helping infrastructure and
operations teams manage costs, enforce governance, and establish
predictability to scale their DevOps efforts intelligently.”
Enabling developers to spend more time working on customer opportunities and
managing costs are two attributes I pick from Lior’s comments that should be
important to most SMBs.
How can SMBs succeed with agile and DevOps
I work with many SMBs that want the culture, customer experience, employee
innovation, and operational benefits of agile without the overhead of SAFe
and other agile scaling frameworks. They want easy-to-implement DevOps, even
if it means that some processes aren’t fully automated.
Here are some of the best practices I work with them on during
my center of excellence programs:
On developing an
agile way of working
On establishing DevOps practices in SMBs:
Let the pain points dictate the priorities, and don’t follow a boilerplate
best practice playbook. For example, orgs facing outages may implement
observability, monitoring, or
before CI/CD because they require improved reliability before
increasing deployment frequency.
Automate highly repetitive tasks without committing to 100 percent
automation. For example, if an app’s code changes frequently but the
database structure doesn’t, it’s ok to focus CI/CD on code deployments and
implement a manual and documented standard operating procedure to support
Define and prioritize your operational and cultural non-negotiables and
choose specific language around the expectation and its importance. For
example, a small B2C company might state, “We fix production defects first
before working on new features because …” as a guiding principle
connecting ops to dev priorities.
SMBs have more choices about why, what, how, and when they implement agile
and devops best practices.
Reach out to me
with your questions.