Most CIOs and IT professionals have a good understanding of what DevOps is and the value it can provide to the enterprise in terms of improved collaboration between software developers and IT staffers, increased agility, and greater efficiency. 

But clearly communicating what DevOps is to the C-suite and the benefits it can provide to a company requires a bit of finesse.

“It’s important that when we talk to senior management, we talk in terms of outcomes,” said Angela Yochem, Chief Information Officer and SVP at Rent-A-Center. “There’s no intrinsic value in having them understand how the sausage is made but there is in communicating what the outcomes can be.

Once the outcomes are understood, we can then describe how we’re going to achieve these outcomes so that we can move at pace,” added Yochem.

DevOps is a set of practices aimed at encouraging collaboration and communications between software developers and IT professionals while automating the process of software delivery. The end goal for DevOps is to create an environment in which software development, testing, and release can be done quickly, frequently, and more reliably through the adoption of agile, lean practices. 

Couching the benefits of DevOps in clear business terms is an effective way of demonstrating its value. Yochem points to a 2014 study of 1,425 IT and line of business executives conducted by CA Technologies and Vanson Bourne in which respondents reported a 19% increase in revenue from their organization’s DevOps efforts. 

Communicating the value

One of the best ways to communicate the business benefits of DevOps is in terms of increased revenue. “Look ahead at where the business community is projecting revenue milestones to be in the future and which ones are dependent on the speed of the IT community,” said Yochem. “From there, point to how you can accelerate those milestones and generate revenue results faster.”

CIOs can also couch DevOps benefits in terms of cost savings. “Within an IT organization, you know how much it costs you to churn out a certain amount of product, including staff resources,” said Yochem. “If you’re able to generate more in a shorter amount of time with the same resources, you can point out the productivity increases that have been achieved.”

It’s also important for CIOs to think through how they plan to structure their DevOps teams in their organizations. One of the mistakes that Yochem said she made when she developed the DevOps team at her last company was that she didn’t make DevOps cross-functional. 

“I ended up creating champions in one part of the organization and skeptics in another part of the organization. In hindsight, I realized that a single team structure was necessary as a starting point but the optimal approach would’ve been to permeate the entire organization after seeding that capability,” said Yochem.

Meanwhile, to communicate a culture of DevOps across the enterprise, Yochem recommends talking about DevOps using the same language that other members of the C-suite would use. “We know that C-suite members are comfortable talking about culture,” said Yochem. “We can use that language instead of using DevOps or Agile language when describing the effort.”

Whoever leads the DevOps movement should be objective in considering various approaches and techniques. “Find a champion who will be open-minded, keep the conversation flowing, and champion the cause,” said Yochem. “It must be someone passionate about the potential, because leading change is hard work.”