This article was published on June 10, 2020

Why DevOps is key to keeping your fully remote business afloat

Why DevOps is key to keeping your fully remote business afloat

As we shift to a fully remote workforce, the life of the DevOps engineer (just like everybody else’s) has been thrown into some level of chaos. Handling a distributed workforce is an organizational challenge even before you even consider the effect it can have on development. And there’s clear anxiety (though not necessarily one rooted in reality) across management around the ability of remote teams to deliver, as McKinsey found in a report from a few months ago.

The silver lining to this abrupt, forced remote workforce is that we have the opportunity to usher in true digital transformation in DevOps. This may seem like a time to freak out and despair, and the absolute worst time for a digital upheaval, but the truth is that we’re now in a position to automate, delegate, and organize our infrastructure in a way that wasn’t possible even five years ago. 

You no longer have to appeal to management to be digital-first when it’s the only choice they’ve got for at least a few months. A fully distributed time is when DevOps truly has the potential to shine and become some form of the slightly wordy ‘BizDevOps’ term. 

In fact, now’s the time that DevOps can be the hero of the organization. In a time when we’re all desperately looking for a win, IT and DevOps can be in a position to innovate and deliver internally and externally.

[Read: Here’s how to make your virtual meetings more efficient]

Automation versus manual labor

Now is a great time for you to evaluate exactly what works and doesn’t work within your DevOps efforts, and specifically where you’re putting you and your team’s time and energy.

I wrote nearly a year ago that DevOps professionals should trust in automation — and now is the time where you’re going to have to do just that.

Simply put, companies are going to have more limited budgets, hiring freezes (in the best case scenario) will be likely, and this means making sure that you can do more than simply keep the lights on and the sites running.

And as you lose much of your in-person and physical presences for your businesses, you’re going to be under more pressure to deliver quickly and consistently. 

I also want to be clear that I’m not simply referring to public-facing sites. In a recent webinar I did I discussed how many modern companies’ internal sites require the same level of care, and arguably even more scrutiny for a DevOps professional.

When an external site goes down, the client’s unhappy, but when an internal site goes down, your boss knows. And they’re not happy. 

Automating your infrastructure consistently is helpful even when you’re dealing with a few sites, but it’s essential while managing hundreds or thousands of sites (and that’s when you need to think about FleetOps).

It’s time to remember what devops actually means

In an ideal world, development and operations should be on the same page, and in a utopia they’re working together at all times.

This means simple things like clear communication of any changes that are happening, and consistent use of scripts and tools across your infrastructure. 

This may mean new organizational changes in annotation and reporting for application code (for example), so that your distributed team isn’t constantly trying to work out what’s going on.

This in particular is crucial as your team becomes fully distributed — you can’t just walk to someone’s desk, and you definitely can’t rely on them to pick up the phone or check Slack at exactly the moment you need them to. 

Be the hero

As I’ve hinted at, a distributed company is one that no longer silos DevOps outside of core business processes.

Our new rush to a totally digital-first world means that you’re going to see sections of the company buckle under the weight of inefficiencies they never had to fix.

It could be that your marketing department has a hundred microsites that are all managed across a mess of databases, or your university’s admissions department has physical servers literally under desks. 

But now is the time that you don’t have to justify why sweeping changes have to be made to make your company faster and more efficient.

As your organization seeks to quickly digitize and “cloudify” itself to face current social and economic challenges, DevOps can take a lead role in spurring transformation, driving value, and keeping the business afloat.

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