Why remote working demands Enterprise DevOps transformation

According to Microsoft, in April this year around half of the US workforce was working from home. At that time, 34.1% were ‘newly remote’, joining 14.6% of remote workers pre-COVID-19. One can only assume that over the past few months this figure has continued to rise.

It’s great that modern working approaches and digital technologies have made this possible at a time of global crisis. Yet remote and distributed working is nothing new – it’s just that we’ve seen exponential and sudden growth this year. In fact, some 12 years ago, Sogeti and Microsoft worked together on a book titled ‘Collaboration in the cloud’. This described the changing world of working together with cloud capabilities, both remotely and face to face:

“New ways of collaboration are starting to take place within your company, across value chains and in the individual social domain of your employees. At the same time, new architecture and delivery models are bringing many new collaborative tools within reach of every person in your organization, with or without your knowledge or control.”

Different collaboration needs require different support for distributed teams to work optimally together. Developers are highly experienced in remote work, with tool capabilities such as GIT and the unique character of their industry that sees them collaborating across organization boundaries on open source projects. But despite this experience and uptake of distributed working, organizations and teams are constantly struggling to get the right balance of remote and onsite work. For those large enterprises with multiple DevOps teams – what we call Enterprise DevOps – there are additional challenges around communication and alignment.

Remote vs onsite

IT leaders recognize that the onsite presence of multiple teams or team members in a single DevOps team offers benefits above remote working. These are often around culture, friendship, ad-hoc and unexpected connections, which bring more alignment and creativity. Indeed, before COVID-19 made remote working an imperative, some organizations enforced mandatory team days or a minimal required amount of ‘in the team room’ presence. For global distributed DevOps teams, organizations run joint on-location team meetings, getting team members to travel from different sites to visit other locations. All these practices aim to balance the benefits of remote working with an onsite presence.

Now, we’re in a very different place as remote and distributed working has become the norm – although not through choice. We didn’t expect it and, for many organizations, the speed at which they had to move to a fully remote working model was a shock, giving little time for IT departments to prepare. This has brought existing challenges with running distributed DevOps teams to the fore and demands a transformation of Enterprise DevOps practices.

In a recent digital session, Microsoft described these challenges as:

  • How to code from anywhere—enabling secure access to cloud-powered development environments from anywhere
  • How to ship from anywhere—securely deploy, monitor, update and remediate apps from anywhere
  • How to collaborate from anywhere—enabling seamless collaboration as a distributed development team

Collaboration tools and platforms, cloud, cultural change, appropriate technology set-up (the right hardware and network connections). These are all components of the solution to these challenges and should be investigated as a priority. As an example, the challenge developers have faced with low performing and insecure local computers can be resolved in either virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions or virtual machines in the cloud. A development environment in the cloud, like Visual Studio Codespaces, solves many of the environment setup issues encountered when adopting cloud-based developer tools. 

Then what? You’ve solved the immediate work-from-home challenges but, at a later stage, as government restrictions continue to be relaxed there will be a completely new Enterprise DevOps situation. This will bring many new opportunities and a focus on growth. Will you be ready for this next phase?

Look out for my next blog on the challenges around quality and consistency in Enterprise DevOps.

Clemens Reijnen
Clemens Reijnen
Global CTO of Cloud Services