It makes sense for a focus its resources on its core business and hire outside service providers for other things. Businesses outsource all kinds of things from janitorial services to printer repair, and many also outsource management of IT itself. When it comes to DevOps, though–which is primarily a shift in IT culture–is it still possible for an organization to outsource? Can you hire outsiders to be your corporate culture, or is it possible to adopt the DevOps culture internally, but still hire outside providers to deliver or manage certain technical aspects of it?
Many organizations outsource elements of their IT capabilities. As companies embrace DevOps, though, it becomes more important than ever that all parties—whether internal or outsourced—are on the same page and function at the same pace. This raises the question: Is it possible for an organization with a DevOps culture to outsource IT? What sorts of unique challenges arise when outsourcing with DevOps?
Outsourcing in general is an effective tactic. It allows a company to stay focused on its core values and mission, and dedicate as much of its resources to innovating and delivering the things that make it unique. Meanwhile, peripheral tasks—whether accounting, janitorial services, or IT support—can be handed off to a third party. The third-party is ostensibly expert at that one specific thing, and the costs of hiring the third party are generally less than trying to develop and maintain a similar capability internally.
When outsourcing, it’s always important to find a provider you’re comfortable with and that you trust to get the job done efficiently and effectively. In most cases, you can let go beyond that and just allow the third party to handle what it has been brought on to do. But with DevOps, things get a little trickier. This article describes the ways you can take advantage of outsourcing within a DevOps environment and recommends a few things to avoid, too.
Can your work culture be extended beyond your team?
Taken by itself, adopting DevOps doesn’t necessarily alter the pros and cons that typically affect an IT organization’s decision to outsource elements of its processes. The primary difference is that traditional IT outsourcing is typically driven by a focus on cutting or reducing costs. An organization looking to implement DevOps is typically seeking to gain business benefit, such as agility and reduced IT costs through improved productivity.
In order for an organization to succeed at DevOps, though, the initiative must start with a culture shift. DevOps relies on breaking down traditional silos and removing the bureaucratic hurdles that bog things down. There are tools and practices that are part of DevOps as well, but a successful DevOps transition begins with changing the core mindset of how things get done and working more seamlessly and collaboratively. While accomplishing that internally is challenging enough, it’s even more difficult to extend such a culture outside of the organization with outsourcing.
Pros and cons of outsourcing DevOps
Just as there are unique benefits and pitfalls when outsourcing any aspect of your business—particularly IT—there are also pros and cons of outsourcing DevOps. One of the primary benefits of outsourcing remains the same: You can engage with a partner that is more experienced or more skilled at a specific aspect of DevOps rather than trying to organically grow that capability internally.
Mirco Hering, an analyst at Accenture, says it’s not necessary for every company to try and reinvent the wheel but adds it’s important to be careful about how your cultures mesh. “The con is obviously the need to align culture and incentives across two different organizations, which is an extra challenge. If you are OK to use a PaaS [platform as a service], then you can leverage the vendor to create your own PaaS and you don’t have to worry too much about the cultural aspects.”
Martin Croker, Hering’s colleague at Accenture, describes DevOps as a spectrum rather than a binary black-and-white solution. He suggests that organizations consider DevOps as an aspect of how IT services are delivered rather than a stand-alone IT function. Hering adds that hiring third-party providers to deliver DevOps capabilities can also be a catalyst for adopting DevOps internally through the consultancy and services provided.