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ETRetail: Dev-ops adoption in retail in India

December 30, 2016

Dev-ops is breaking ground towards swifter and agile methods of technology delivery. It is the latest trend in the software development process that is transforming the way software is being delivered. For anyone that is relatively new to the term, the process highlights an integration of development and IT operations but is not limited to just that. It also involves a stringent quality process that brings out the best in software development. Breaking down the silos and improving communication and collaboration, dev-ops is all about continuous integration, automated quality assurance (where possible) and software delivery by automated deployment.

India being a large player in the IT sector – hasn’t been too far behind on this revolution. The rate of change is primarily impacted by the size and nature of the IT landscape. Retail has been a particularly challenging sector primarily due to the wide variety of IT systems that make up an e-commerce platform. The systems range from old school kiosks, mainframes, handheld devices and the latest in the web technologies including responsive websites and micro-services, to name a few.

Retailers that run the brick and mortar business are largely out of sync with their internet-facing business units in terms of the level of software delivery maturity. This impacts how the adoption of dev-ops would spread across the organisation, with the web/mobile based systems taking full advantage of the new approach, whereas, the handheld and kiosk based systems still largely being dependent on the vendors to support features like live updates and highly available architectures to benefit from automation. While vendors for embedded systems are playing catch – for retailers to benefit from it, the bigger challenge they have is to overhaul their systems – while maintaining the levels of business availability that the market demands of them.

Taking a wider glance across a larger enterprise, some key aspects that contribute to the adoption of dev-ops include:

Skillets – Historically the link between the development and the operations team have been build engineers. While it sounds like the dev-ops anti-pattern – the tactical approach to full adoption in an enterprise is to move up the profile of build engineers to dev-ops engineers by upskilling them to higher value tasks, while their current jobs are replaced by automation and CI tools, for example, Jenkins. A lot of enterprises are currently in this phase – planning the transition to upskill the rest of the engineering teams to be able to handle operational tasks within the team itself. This transition is still a challenge at scale because of several factors, most importantly resourcing issues which requires an organisation-wide change including HR, career frameworks and management structures.

Tooling unification – Enterprises, due to a fair mix of brownfield and greenfield projects also have quite a fragmented toolset. To achieve consistency there is a need for unification of tools where possible. It’s not uncommon to have multiple tools doing the same job in an organisations transition phase causing the enterprise to struggle with the challenges of moving around talent in the organisation. This also has an impact on the tooling cost as there is a missed opportunity for getting volume licensing and training cost saving opportunities. As enterprises move towards consolidation of tooling the state of dev-ops adoption would also benefit.

Consistent way of measuring maturity – Another aspect that needs to improve over a period is to centrally measure the maturity level of engineering across the enterprise. The current lack of such consistent measure leads to fragmented effort to improve the overall engineering maturity of the enterprise. There have been attempts to build, on top of the application portfolio management process, additional dimensions including developing, building, testing, deployment, management, etc. This has been helpful for enterprise in terms of measuring processes and improving focus at a sub process level. This also helps adopt a pragmatic view by deciding not to focus on the projects that are end of life or are planned to be replaced by a new breed of applications.

Overall dev-ops in India is a growing trend – the rate of adoption varies based on the scale of adoption from startups to large enterprise.

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