DevOps Team: Roles and Responsibilities for 2021

DevOps Team
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As businesses transitioned from a product-oriented development model towards a customer-centric approach, smaller release cycles, better quality, and seamless collaboration across DevOps teams became the need of the hour. DevOps rightly serves this purpose. DevOps is an innovative methodology that offers a set of practices that brings development and operations teams together to collaborate seamlessly and continuously deliver quality products faster and better. 

In a traditional waterfall software development environment, different teams are assigned different tasks. Developers are focused on introducing features according to project requirements using existing software, while the operations teams are concerned about the stability of the infrastructure. As such, change is something that developers want, and operations worry about. The product quality is also the sole responsibility of the Quality team. 

DevOps’ advent has transformed the software development landscape, bringing cross-functional teams of developers, operations, and QA to seamlessly collaborate and deliver quality in an automated continuous delivery environment. In a DevOps-driven continuous delivery environment, developers and operations teams jointly think about how a feature will respond in a production environment, resulting in reduced errors, faster time to market, better quality, and efficiencies. With Quality Engineering and Quality Assurance going hand in hand, QA teams are happier now as quality is not just their job, but it turns into DevOps Team responsibilities.

Table of content

1. DevOps Team Structure

2. Leadership in DevOps Team

3. Common responsibilities of DevOps Teams (DevOps Responsibilities)

4. Common roles in a DevOps Team (DevOps roles)

5. Increasing efficiency of DevOps Teams

6. Best Practices to succeed as a DevOps Team

7. Conclusion

DevOps Team FAQs

1. DevOps Team Structure

DevOps team structure plays a crucial role in fully leveraging DevOps benefits. As such, organizations should ensure that the team is built with the right people with a clear definition of DevOps roles and responsibilities. 

DevOps teams comprise professionals from development, quality, security, and the operations segment. As the core responsibility of the team would be on the person who owns the DevOps team, a senior person from the organization would be an ideal person to lead the team, referred to as a DevOps Evangelist. The DevOps evangelist will ensure that the responsibilities of DevOps processes are assigned to the right people. The smallest DevOps team should comprise the following people; A software developer/tester, automation engineer/automation expert, quality assurance professional, security engineer, and release manager. The granularity of the team ultimately depends on the size of the organization. 

With infrastructure as code increasingly gaining momentum, the thin line between development and operations is quickly waning off. The current DevOps team structure contains people who are skilled in coding and operations. Strong communication skills, technical expertise, and team player mentality are important traits for a DevOps guy. Most importantly, commitment and buy-in from every member are also important.

DevOps

2. Leadership in DevOps Team

One of the major reasons why organizations fail when initiating a change is that culture is deeply rooted. When it comes to DevOps, cultural shift is a key component. As such, leadership matters the most in a DevOps environment. Employees are mostly resistant to change. Proper engagement with the team and influencing positivity across the organization is essential. 

DevOps teams are ideally led by a senior member of the organization who knows business processes, has the technical expertise, and interacts with all employees. A DevOps evangelist fills in this position. The leader should have a clear vision and articulate the vision across the team, drive intent, inspire, motivate and encourage everyone. Seamless collaboration and engagement help everyone not only to be motivated but align with organizational objectives. 

Secondly, the leadership should recognize skilled individuals and train them to become leaders with personal support, coaching, etc. Thirdly, decentralizing decision-making enables the team to share DevOps responsibilities across the board while allowing them to expedite processes. The leader should ideally be a role model, show integrity, create a trustworthy environment and inspire others to follow that path. 

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3. Common responsibilities of DevOps Teams (DevOps Responsibilities)

DevOps the value flow

In a DevOps environment, cross-functional teams share common responsibilities. Here are some of the DevOps team responsibilities:

DevOps Responsibilities: CI/CD Pipelines

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) sits at the heart of DevOps. This pipeline comprises integrated processes required to automate build, test, and deployment. In the Build phase, a compilation of the application takes place using a version control system. Here, the build is validated based on the organizational compliance requirements. In the test phase, the code is tested, and the Release phase delivers the application to the repository. In the deployment phase, the application is deployed to the required platforms.  

CI CD pipeline

Continuous Delivery takes the applications and delivers them to selected infrastructures. Testing moves towards the left part of the CI/CD pipeline, wherein code is automatically tested before delivering it to production. It improves collaboration and quality. 

DevOps Responsibilities: Cloud/Server/Network Architectures

DevOps augmented by cloud technology enables you to build highly scalable and flexible applications using different architectures such as Microservices, serverless architecture, and cloud architecture.

Monolithic architectures that build a massive application as a single entity ruled the software landscape for years. While this architecture offered stability, any changes to the application impacted the application as a whole. As the application grew, it got complex and hindered scalability. Microservices solved most of these challenges.

Microservice architecture is a process of building an application as smaller services that are loosely coupled, independently deployable, and use lightweight protocols. This architecture facilitates the incremental development of applications. It complements the DevOps team structure as every small change is efficiently handled. By allowing you to use a shared tool stack across processes, Microservices and DevOps go hand in hand to increase productivity. Microservices architecture increases scalability and reliability. Application availability and modifiability are also increased. Application development management, therefore, becomes efficient and easy.

Here’s a great blog about Microservices vs Monolith that can help you understand the differences between them.

Similarly, cloud architecture is about creating a cloud platform by integrating individual technologies. It is not just abstracting hardware capabilities but also involves other processes such as automation, orchestration, APIs, containerization, security, routing, UX design, etc. Public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud are a few examples of popular cloud architectures. 

In a serverless computing or serverless architecture, you can host your applications on a 3rd party server which means you don’t have to maintain server resources and other server-related hardware. It is also called Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) as you actually deliver functions as a service over the cloud. Serverless architecture is similar to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) but differs in usage. In PaaS, the entire application is hosted, scaled, and delivered. In a serverless architecture, you host required functions, scale them and deliver them over the cloud without architecture responsibilities. As such, you can only pay for the functions used. AWS Lambda is a popular tool for FaaS (Function-as-a-service).

When it comes to DevOps responsibilities, a DevOps architect prepares the infrastructure, designs a plan, and offers guidelines to build relevant processes. The DevOps engineer implements this plan to design and automate DevOps processes using the right tool stack and infrastructure as code (IaC) techniques for the specific environment. The implementation of these tools will again be monitored by the DevOps architect across the product lifecycle.

DevOps Responsibilities: Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is an innovative concept of managing infrastructure operations using code. Unlike traditional environments wherein manual configuration files and scripts are used to manage configuration, IaC performs operations using code in an automated environment. It treats infrastructure as code applying version control systems, monitoring tools, virtualization tests to automate and govern the operations as you do with code releases. The code describes, manages, and converges the desired state of a machine or the infrastructure. IaC is not just for automation, it also allows you to implement DevOps best practices to remove errors, perform testing on infrastructure, streamline operations, faster deployments, and flexibility to change and rebuild the entire system within seconds in times of a disaster. While you avoid documentation, seamless collaboration becomes a reality.

I recommend you this blog about Infrastructure as code that talks about its benefits, best practices and the best IaC tools!

DevOps Responsibilities: Cloud migrations

Moving your apps and data to a cloud is not an easy task. Cloud migration strategies differ from one organization to another. Replatforming, Rehosting, Repurchasing, Rebuilding, refactoring, and retiring are some of the strategies that you could follow. You need to prepare and implement a migration strategy by assessing application capabilities, cloud readiness, choose the right provider, migrate apps and data and perform post-validation as well.

The first step in cloud migration begins with discovering current IT infrastructure and assessing product capabilities, cloud readiness levels, and cloud requirements. Security, network, and data center management teams usually sit together on this task to prepare a cloud migration framework with well-written documentation. At this stage, a cross-functional DevOps team is formed with members from IT, operations, security, finance, and management that share the common responsibilities of DevOps to implement the cloud migration framework.

Cloud migration happens at three levels. Firstly, DevOps teams work at the infrastructure level designing the infrastructure for the application migration. Secondly, the team works at the application level moving applications to the cloud, beginning with the least complex apps and then scaling up as required. Thirdly, the cloud migration team works at the data level, securely migrating system data and application data to the cloud environment. The security guys will work on the security access policies.

This is when DevOps transformation begins in the new cloud environment. Under the guidance of the DevOps architects, DevOps engineers build DevOps processes such as CI/CD pipelines along with a continuous monitoring loop using a customized tool stack to begin operations in a phased manner. Based on the feedback, operations are scaled up. A DevOps evangelist monitors the entire project.

Similarly, migration between clouds is more daunting. When you migrate from AWS to Azure or GCP, you might have to realign the software. Multi-cloud platforms are more complex and require high expertise, skill sets, and a proper strategy to make a smooth transition. 

Contact us any time you need an AWS migration or an app optimization!

DevOps Responsibilities: Security Compliance

As with the development and operations teams that have opposite objectives, development and security operations have conflicting objectives too. Traditionally, development teams and operation teams focus on policy management, code inspection, etc., and security teams retroactively monitor and mitigate risks. However, compliance is now a requirement in every release cycle. As such, security has to be incorporated in the planning stage of development. 

DevSecOps integrates security into DevOps, bridging this gap. As such, security is automated too to be on par with continuous delivery in terms of speed and scale. Developers can easily follow the control implementation to adhere to compliance requirements. 

System hardening is another security process that strengthens the system configuration and reduces potential vulnerabilities. By removing unnecessary programs, accessible accounts, you can reduce threats. Customizing security rules above or beyond regular configurations is required. You need to implement more configuration settings when an application accepts logins and relax rules when updates and other modes of operations are going on. Different rules should be implemented at different stages of development. 

In a DevOps environment, automating security rules is important too. Automatic scripts that can be executed at the granular level to facilitate flexible customization of exceptions and modes. After hardening is done, teams should verify if it meets the baseline and then continuously monitor it to avoid deviations. It should be continuously improved and updated as well. 

Information security has to be incorporated at the earliest in DevOps. As a best practice, the DevOps team structure should include information security specialists who participate right through the software engineering process, right from demonstration and strategic planning to reviews so that they will design security compliance and goals across the product lifecycle. Information security is an everyday process in DevOps.

DevOps Culture: Practice and evangelize the DevOps culture across the IT department

When culture is deeply rooted in an organization, resistance to change is a big bottleneck. As DevOps is not just a tool or a technology, it is important to see a top-down cultural shift across the organization. Teams should break down silos and find a common ground to seamlessly communicate and collaborate. It should happen right from business perspectives to deployment and maintenance across all stakeholders, departments, and stages of development. With different tools, technologies, processes, and people, achieving this is a herculean task. It only happens when everyone imbibes this change, practices, and evangelizes the concept. DevOps leader holds a key role in this responsibility.

DevOps Responsibilities: Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring in DevOps provides real-time feedback on the performance of an application in production. As development gets faster in DevOps, QA needs to match this pace to run automated tests. QA being dependent on CI, continuous monitoring becomes an integral part of every stage of the product life cycle. The current monitoring tools are not just confined to production environments but they also proactively monitor the entire app stack. When monitoring is integrated into the DevOps lifecycle, tracking DevOps KPIs becomes easy, and app deployments become efficient. It also facilitates seamless collaboration between development and operations teams.

DevOps Responsibilities: IT Support

IT support is another important team that should be integrated into the DevOps lifecycle. It should be automated to match the speed and scale of agile development. When developers push code to production, they can convey known errors to the support team. Similarly, Kbs related to incidents and problems should be communicated to all members so that everyone is educated about issues and incidents. 

Right from the service desk to operations and development, everyone should be responsible and linked with tickets raised so that they are updated with the happenings in the infrastructure. By linking tickets to corresponding releases or changes, you can reduce errors and build apps faster.

DevOps Responsibilities: On call (Incident Management)

On-call Incident management is not very different in DevOps environments. The only change is that developers are also involved in this process. Teams collaboratively identify vulnerabilities and are prepared to efficiently handle incidents. With monitoring tools, continuous feedback, and alerting tools, teams detect and respond and resolve issues along with a post-mortem process. 

While one on-call engineer responds to incidents, DevOps teams assign multiple people for escalations so that the on-call engineer can escalate it to the right person or team. Once the issue is resolved, teams analyze the system again to get prepared for future incidents.

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4. Common roles in a DevOps Team (DevOps roles)

devops team

Here are a few common roles in a DevOps team.

DevOps roles: DevOps Engineer

A DevOps engineer is responsible for designing the right infrastructure required for teams to continuously build and deliver products. The engineer identifies project requirements and KPIs and customizes the tool stack. He is well versed with automation tools and security technologies. Right from the build, test, deployment, and monitoring of a product, the engineer integrates all resources and functions required at every stage of the product lifecycle while protecting the cloud architecture from hacking attacks. In addition, the engineer is involved in team composition, project activities, defining and setting the processes for CI/CD pipelines and external interfaces. 

DevOps Roles: Release Manager

When it comes to the DevOps team structure, the release manager holds one of the most demanding and stressful roles. The release manager is responsible for the entire release lifecycle, right from planning, scheduling, automating, and managing continuous delivery environments. Release managers are mostly Ops-focused wherein they design an automation pipeline for a smooth progression of code to production, monitor feedback, reports, and plan the next release, working in an endless loop. 

DevOps Roles: DevOps/CloudOps architect

The responsibility of a DevOps architect is to analyse existing software development processes and create an optimized DevOps CI/CD pipeline to rapidly build and deliver software. The architect analyses existing processes and implement best practices to streamline and automate processes using the right tools and technologies. In addition, he monitors and manages technical operations, collaborates with dev and ops, and offers support when required. He also acts as a leader as required.

DevOps roles: Security and Compliance Engineer

The Security and Compliance Engineer (SCE) is responsible for the overall security of the DevOps environment. The SCE closely works with the development teams to design and integrate security into the CI/CD pipeline, ensuring data integrity and security are not compromised at every stage of the product lifecycle. In addition, the SCE ensures that the products being developed are adhering to governing regulations and compliance standards. 

DevOps roles: Software Developer/Tester  

While a regular software developer writes the code to build a product, the DevOps software developer/tester is involved across the product lifecycle. Responsibilities of DevOps developers include tasks such as updating the code, adding new features, and resolving bugs while ensuring that the application meets business objectives. In addition, the developer runs unit tests, pushes the code to production, and monitors its performance. 

DevOps roles: DevOps evangelist

For an organization to fully leverage DevOps, it should go through a complete cultural shift. A DevOps evangelist is the one who acts as this change agent, inspiring, educating, and motivating people across the organization to embark on the DevOps journey. The evangelist removes silos between different teams, brings them onto a common platform, determines the roles and responsibilities of DevOps members, and ensures everyone is trained on the job they are assigned. Overall, the evangelist leads the DevOps journey, ensuring that a cultural shift is happening across the organization, everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities, finds ways to optimize processes and ensures that best practices are implemented in an end-to-end product development lifecycle. 

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5. Increasing efficiency of DevOps Teams

While many organizations focus on tools and technologies, people and culture are ignored. However, choosing the right people for the right tasks and inducing the DevOps culture across the organization delivers results in the long run. 

Retention of valuable resources

DevOps teams are special. They work within a unique culture. As such, organizations should focus more on retaining existing employees instead of recruiting new ones. Organizations generally incur significant costs in training new employees and integrating resources across teams. However, identifying potential talent within the organization and building new DevOps teams would be a good idea. Not only is it cost-effective but the knowledge they possess and share with others will be an added advantage. 

Providing the right tools, engaging them on visionary projects, working under competent management and quality people are some of the aspects that will help you retain your employees. 

Cross-functional teams/ squads

In a traditional software development environment, developers and operations people have different objectives, incentives, and responsibilities. While developers are rewarded for the feature-set, operations receive incentives when the infrastructure is stable. As such, developers are not concerned about stability while operations teams don’t like frequent changes to code. To overcome this challenge, you should customize your DevOps team structure with  cross-functional teams comprising designers, developers, testers, security professionals, and operations members who share incentives and responsibilities. Now, every member of the cross-functional team will take equal responsibility at every stage of the product lifecycle. 

Planned recruitment

As DevOps is neither a technology nor a tool, hiring the right DevOps human resources is a challenging task. Instead of getting caught in the buzzword, it is important to look at organization-specific needs first. Create a hiring strategy based on industry trends, technological analysis, and business requirements. Prepare a structured process management system with a streamlined interview process and onboard mechanisms, and execute it to hire the right people for the right jobs, at the right time.

Soft skills are the most important requirement in a DevOps team structure. Compared to technical skills, soft skills are harder to teach your employees. So, ensure that your employees are creative thinkers, team persons, communicate well and are ready to learn. More than speaking, they should listen and translate the information into actionable insights.

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6. Best Practices to succeed as a DevOps Team

As with ITIL, DevOps doesn’t come with standard policies. You need to customize your DevOps strategies looking at the cues offered by early adopters to fully leverage its benefits. The main goal of the team is to deliver higher performance, quickly recover from outages and fail less. 

It begins with choosing the right talent. After acquiring the right talent, organize your teams across customer value streams. Start with smaller teams and scale-up. Provide the autonomy for each team to choose their tools and processes while not drifting away from a shared tool strategy and centralized visibility and monitoring. 

As the DevOps team collaborates with multiple departments and people, providing them with the right tools and technologies is very essential. Seamless communication across the organization cannot be ignored. Using the right chat tools and communication tools is recommended. Alert escalation and incident management tools play a handy role in helping members receive timely alerts and keep themselves updated with what’s happening across the infrastructure. They can integrate monitoring tools and share a common workflow. Implementing automation across the process is also important. 

While working as a team is crucial, dealing with members at an individual level is equally important. Regular pep talks, motivations, and inspirations would boost the morale of members which will significantly impact the overall productivity of the system. 

What would be the best DevOps practices to automate, optimize, and monitor the entire Software Development life cycle? Read the blog!

7. Conclusion

DevOps is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ method. Each organization has different DevOps requirements and each organization has a different perspective towards DevOps. With a lack of standards and policies, organizations should take extra care in preparing and implementing a DevOps team structure and strategy in the organization. 

Start at the organization level, hire and manage the right talent required for the organization. Work at the team level, designing and structuring your processes, defining roles and responsibilities of DevOps teams, and choosing the right technology stack. Then go down to the individual level to touch every member of the team. The secret to success in a DevOps environment is gaining top-down buy-in across the organization. 

The bottom line is that DevOps is not just for developers or operations. It’s for the entire organization.

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DevOps Team FAQs

What team within an organization does the DevOps team belong to?

In a DevOps environment, there is no hierarchy. Developers, operations, and QA teams work at the same level. As such, each team works independently and does not belong to any other team. 

How does the DevOps Team collaborate with all the stakeholders?

DevOps team builds a feedback loop with all stakeholders early in the cycle to establish seamless communication all through the product lifecycle via product meetings, daily standups, planning meetings, etc, using various digital communication channels.

How to recruit the best DevOps Engineers in my team?

Before hiring a DevOps engineer, assess your business requirements and prepare a hiring strategy. A DevOps engineer is skilled in development and operations and interacts with all team members. So, look for hard skills such as IT background, virtualization expertise, system build knowledge, etc. as well as soft skills such as communication, service-orientation, team person, and the value he offers to the organization.

How to adopt scrum and agile practices in a DevOps team?

Firstly, for task management, set up a central task board using Kanban or Scrum so that everyone knows what is happening around. Secondly, collaboration is important across the infrastructure so that members can ask questions, share things and keep everyone updated with the progress. Thirdly, set up an agile reporting toolset so that all stakeholders can check the progress of the project. Choosing the right agile tools, educating stakeholders and assigning them specific roles, and collaborating with everyone using Kanban/Scrum boards is recommended. 

How to improve the Ops of your DevOps team?

The Ops team should bring extensible automation to operations so that regular tasks such as scaling the infrastructure, updating systems, or resolving issues can be done in a smarter way. It also brings consistency across the infrastructure and enables easy tracking of KPIs.

Whom should the DevOps team report to?

While the team operates autonomously most of the time, it will report to a pre-assigned senior member of the organization, ideally a DevOps evangelist, when required.

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