DevOps, Federal Government

3 Steps to Federal DevOps Success


Federal agencies today face enormous pressure to transform their outdated applications in order to realize cost savings and efficiencies and improve service delivery. Many agencies still use legacy systems and architecture that lack modern functionality and fail to provide adequate security – in 2018, the Federal budget identified 70.3% of Federal IT spending as related to maintaining legacy systems. As outdated data and code repositories become more difficult to support, these systems become increasingly expensive to maintain.

When it comes to developing new applications, many agencies still struggle with integrating siloed groups of IT experts organized by function. This approach reduces development speed, impacts system quality, and reduces time to value of these applications.

In 2017, it resulted in a reported $32 billion in failed Federal IT projects. In order to deliver systems that can keep up with the needs of Federal agencies, delivering modern functionality, visibility, security, and transparency, agencies must change their software development, delivery, and operations practices in favor of a more collaborative, nimble approach.

DevOps in Federal

DevOps is the key to transforming IT organizations to deliver value, cost savings, and collaboration. Agencies in need of an efficiency jump-start are adopting DevOps, bringing their development and operations teams together to innovate and produce better outcomes. According to research from MeriTalk:

  • 78% of agencies believe implementing DevOps strategies will help their agency innovate faster
  • 75% of agencies already using DevOps say it reduces cost and risk of project failure

DevOps strategies can help agencies deliver solutions up to 30x more frequently, with 60x fewer failures by joining software development and operations, advocating better communication and collaboration between these two groups and across broader team participants and contributors. This approach leads to powerful, flexible solutions that align with agency operational requirements, and that smooth the transition from existing legacy systems. Agencies such as the U.S. Digital Services teams, supporting GSA, OMB, VA, DHS, and EPA, along with the DoD, NASA, and HHS are all realizing these benefits by using DevOps to transition to modern digital services.

By understanding the value of DevOps and making small, incremental changes, agencies can start transforming their IT shop right away.

Focus on Delivering Value

Traditional development and operational approaches, which lack automated test and review cycles and use a variety of tools and processes through the system lifecycle, slow down production releases. In many cases, by the time the application is ready to push to the end user, it has become obsolete, suboptimal, or simply value that has been sitting on a shelf for six months. In a DevOps environment, changes are made more frequently and in smaller batches. This nimble and adaptive approach improves innovation and risk-taking, making it safer to experiment. User requirements are integrated into the process, collecting data on the business and technical requirements of functional releases to deliver functionality that meets the current needs of the agency.

DevOps uses an integrated toolchain to coordinate delivery, development, and management of applications throughout the software development lifecycle. These toolchains provide traceability and auditability, content collaboration and documentation, source code analysis, version control, continuous integration, deployment and release management, and support a variety of processes that fit an agency’s DevOps requirements. Combining an integrated toolchain with common practices like replacing functional teams with project-oriented teams, continuous delivery, continuous improvement, automation and more, creates a self-sustaining infinite loop focused on delivering value, high productivity, and safety.

Measure Value and Optimize

While a project may start out aligned toward an agency’s system requirements, priorities can change. In order to deliver better product decisions, higher value, and increased reliability, it is important to frequently measure how well the system delivers value to the end user. This measurement allows for rapid course correction as organizational priorities shift and new operational requirements are added. The faster the software team gets at delivering functional releases, the more critical it becomes to determine how well the team is delivering valuable software.

Measuring value for the end user is similar to automated acceptance testing, except applied in production. Automating as a team includes building “sensors” into the application releases and aggregating and analyzing user feedback. Development teams must collaborate with operations to get to the right data in order to optimize the application to ensure that it is delivering functionality to the end user now and into the future.

Enable Total Transformation

DevOps begins with a culture shift. Processes, methodologies, and tools help support your cultural transformation. Jay Virgil, Senior Technical Account Manager with Atlassian states: “As agencies embrace DevOps practices in efforts to break down the walls between Development and Operations teams to deliver more value, more quickly from their IT investments, it’s important to have the right tooling as well.”

With flexible tools from Atlassian, DevOps teams can develop a culture of trust and collaboration that delivers value and transforms Federal operations. Explore our infographic for an overview of how a DevOps approach can help agencies produce better outcomes.

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