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IAE and DevOps: The Journey So Far (Part 2)

In Part 1, you learned that federal agencies are being nudged to implement DevOps as they commence Agile initiatives, since the two are integrated and synergistic, particularly in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). You also were given several linked resources to learn more about how to think about introducing DevOps into your program.

The Integrated Award Environment (IAE) Program has been on a journey to implement DevOps for the past year, as IAE transforms our organization to “modernize” its 10 systems onto a single platform using a customized SAFe approach, what is being called the (new) SAM.

Assessing IAE DevOps Maturity So Far

So where is IAE in the DevOps Maturity Model? First, one should point out there are many ways to do DevOps and there are many DevOps assessment and maturity models. At the Agile in Government Summit 2016, a DevOps maturity model was presented that included 5 levels. Level 1 (ad hoc) is where most organizations are today, so there’s a great deal of work to be done. At this level, the organization is silo-based, typically uses blame as a way to get things done, has experts that don’t share knowledge, and has almost no accountability. As far as technology, it does manual building and deployment, as well as manual testing. The development, testing, and deployment environments are inconsistent. Level 5 (optimized) has a culture of continuous improvement. This includes zero downtime deployment, immutable infrastructure, and active focus on resiliency. Few organizations are at this point in the emergence of DevOps, although this is the objective.

IAE’s new SAM.gov is not yet in production for Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment/Delivery and hence it has yet to undergo the full cycle of work to deliver to our users.  IAE has been working multiple Agile teams applying the evolving “IAE DevOps and IV&V Processes” document that has been collaboratively created across the teams.  IAE DevOps is on the cusp of moving from manual testing and deployment to automated testing and deployment, and so, like most emergent Agile DevOps organizations, has had to first go through the bumpy road of Level 1 so that we can now cross into Level 2 in maturity.  Adopting DevOps is often painful initially, so it’s significant IAE is moving forward.  

The Evolving Lessons Learned  

So what have we, learned so far?

Lesson 1:  Culture, Automation, Lean, Measurement and Sharing (CALMS) are the cornerstones of DevOps. Sharing the good, bad and the ugly within the team and across the organization allows everyone to grow, learn and improve the processes.

Lesson 2:  DevOps can often necessitate building new organizational behaviors and staffing to become a learning organization with leadership support. High performing DevOps culture looks like this: we see problems as they occur, we swarm those with resolutions, we spread the new knowledge, and we have blameless post-mortems (retrospectives), so everyone gets better and better.

Lesson 3: Culture means that we focus on the right people doing the work who can play well, be cross-boundary, and be user-centric to deliver, deliver, deliver. The key to success is forming the right leadership and teams, with the right backing and support from management, at every level. They say in real estate it is location, location and location. In DevOps, its culture, culture, and culture.

Lesson 4: It's not, as many tools vendors will lead you to believe, simply about buying products that magically lead you to DevOps nirvana. Choosing the best Agile scalable tool that supports DevOps Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment with Value Stream, Portfolio and Program views is critical the more complex your enterprise may be. We are assessing our tool.


In the IAE, we have learned that environment has a lot to do with how you implement a DevOps culture, requiring an over-arching DevOps structure that is part of the entire program, not isolated into a single team. We learned DevOps should be defined by the entire program so everyone buys in. We learned that there is no solid definition or a defined way of implementing DevOps. It falls into two categories – (1) technology and (2) culture. Technology tools have been developed to support building and promoting “stuff” faster. They call it that DevOps.

But the equally if not more important category is the change of organizational and people culture, just as Agile does, Many companies and organizations say they are Agile until you lift up the hood and look inside and discover they are just putting Agile labels on waterfall ways. It’s the same with DevOps. Just because they can get stuff deployed faster doesn’t mean they are a DevOps culture; a DevOps culture focuses not primarily on speed but on quality and learning from failure to build better working products that users delight in.

So we continue our journey up the DevOps Maturity Model scale, eyes wide open to learning more lessons as we proceed.


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The Integrated Award Environment (IAE) is a government-wide initiative administered by GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). We manage the suite... More

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