Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile Using DevOps: An Interview with Mark Levy

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Mark Levy, the director of strategy at Micro Focus, explains why DevOps is so important when making the move from waterfall to agile. He details speed versus quality when it comes to agile, why agile transformations take so long, and first steps you should take.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell interview. Today I’m joined by Mark Levy, director of strategic marketing at Micro Focus. We’ll be discussing how to evolve from waterfall to agile by taking advantage of DevOps. Mark, thanks so much for speaking with us. Before we actually dig into that topic, can you just give us a snapshot of your experience in the industry?

Mark Levy:  My career spans over twenty-five years of experience in enterprise software focusing on both application development and IT operations.  Prior to joining Micro Focus, I’ve held product management and product development positions focusing on application development, service, availability, and performance management. I’ve specifically focused on application delivery and release management since 2008 and have followed the DevOps movement for the last five years. I have also been hosting a web seminar series called the “DevOps Drive-in” for the last three years where we have interviewed thought leaders such as Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Gary Gruver, Patrick Debois, and others on topics such as DevOps best practices, culture, and high performance IT.

Josiah Renaudin: The amount of pressure that IT organizations are under to accelerate product delivery continues to increase year over year. What do you think has caused this greater demand for speed?

Mark Levy:  Software development and delivery has always been a race against time. I was a developer for over ten years and we were always racing to a date.  But over the last several years, that race has entered an even more challenging phase.  There are three external trends that are putting pressure on the business. 

First is the empowered, digitally enabled, demanding customer. With the explosion of mobile apps and low switching costs, the business needs to deliver quickly to prove out business ideas and innovations.  Customer expectations have also risen with the adoption of consumer technologies that are intuitive, easy to use, and incredibly powerful. The business has to deliver new software faster to meet customers’ expectations. 

The second trend relates to digital competitors. Firms that use software to disrupt established markets can move faster than traditional hardware or people-based businesses.  Battles are already being waged across many industries between incumbents and software-powered companies.  This is putting pressure on the business to deliver more digital products, services and channels. 

The last trend points to the fact that Mark Andreessen was spot on in 2011 when he penned his essay on “Why Software is Eating the World." Today, software success is increasingly indistinguishable from business success. All business innovation requires new software, changes to software, or both. And business innovations can’t wait for long software cycles to finish.

Josiah Renaudin: Without adopting agile, is it even possible to meet these speed demands without sacrificing quality in some way?

Mark Levy:  It depends on where the constraints are.  You could adopt agile development but if it takes six weeks to request, provision, and stand-up your test environments, you might not get the results you were expecting. Accelerating application delivery is the number one reason companies implement agile development methodologies but agile, by itself, is often not sufficient. There are many delivery bottlenecks downstream from the development team.  

As far as the “speed versus quality” trade-off, with modern software practices, you should not have to make a choice. By automating and building quality into your development and delivery process and “shifting left” your testing, speed increases and quality improves. DevOps has proven that speed and quality are not mutually exclusive.

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