DevOps, Federal Government

The Federal DevOps Summit: 3 Takeaways


Carahsoft representatives joined CIOs, CTOs, project managers, technology partners and more at the Federal DevOps Summit, a one-day symposium hosted by the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC) in March.

ATARC DevOps Summit Blog 1

Keynote speakers and panelists discussed tools and techniques being used by the Federal Government to provide agencies with greater efficiency and cost savings. Here are some of our takeaways:

DevOps Is a Spectrum, Not a Destination

Federal agencies are making concerted efforts to bridge software development and IT operations by adopting DevOps principles, but it doesn’t come easy.

In fact, those efforts are more likely to fail when agencies approach DevOps as a checklist of tasks to be completed rather than a cultural paradigm shift. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to DevOps, so there can’t be an ideal model or ultimate goal.

William Pratt, director of strategic technology management at DHS, likened DevOps to a spectrum that represents different levels of maturation. Agencies span the spectrum, and what matters is not that they’re all at the same point, but that they’re constantly improving. Pratt said an agency doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should strive to be better than it is now.

DevOps Cultures Drive Policy and Vice Versa

Grassroots change inside agencies is essential for building the momentum that makes policy changes possible. At the same time, policy changes can jolt entrenched cultures and nudge agencies toward the benefits of DevOps. It’s an incremental and cyclical process, said Rob Hill, executive officer-DevOps at the IRS.

At the end of the day, DevOps only works if an agency is willing to change its culture. But many agencies struggle with how to implement that change, a challenge made more difficult when faced with voluminous information, sometimes conflicting or outdated. The best thing an agency leader can do is talk to peers and learn from their experiences – successes and failures.

Technology suppliers can also provide valuable insight. GitLab, a Carahsoft partner, was in attendance, and their team has been involved in many DevOps transitions.

“An agency’s culture can make or break the transformation, which depends on a willingness to embrace automation,” said Jim Riley, GitLab’s Federal strategic account leader. “Automation is a key enabler that allows organizations to rapidly deploy software systems. The commercial world calls this ‘time to market.’  In the public sector, it’s referred to as ‘speed to mission.’”

You Need Talent to Do DevOps

DevOps cultures require team members who are technically skilled, but also flexible, transparent, and collaborative. Without the right people, DevOps initiatives can stall, so recruiting and nurturing talent is among agencies’ biggest concerns.

Jeff Boleng, DoD senior advisor for software acquisition, noted that agencies have better luck recruiting talent if they identify software development as a core function, as opposed to viewing development as an add-on expense.

Rob Brown, USCIS chief integration architect, echoed the need to hire talented people and give them the ability to become true engineers who can grow professionally and help others grow.

There are many benefits to implementing DevOps in your agency, if done correctly. Learn how to start and scale DevOps with this E-Book by Gitlab. For more information, follow GitLab on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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