Teaming Strategies

There are several teaming strategies that you can choose to adopt when it comes to getting development professionals and operations professionals to work together. Starting with the least effective and working our way to the most effective, they are:

  1. Production hand-off. When a development team releases a solution into production the operations team takes on the responsibility for running and supporting the solution. At this point the development team is often disbanded or moves on to another effort. A sustainment team of one or more developers may be formed to perform maintenance updates as needed over time, or the responsibility to do this work is given to an existing sustainment team. The advantage of this approach is that your organization no longer has to fund the full development team moving forward. However, you risk losing the knowledge and expertise of the team that is required to maintain and evolve the solution over time. This can be particularly problematic when there are high-severity defects to be fixed.
  2. Warranty period. With this strategy the development team commits to fixing critical defects for a pre-defined period of time after the solution is released into production. For example, a development team may be required to fix any severity 1 or severity 2 defects free of charge for the first thirty days following a production release. Warranty periods are often combined with the production hand-off strategy to reduce the risks associated with it. Warranty periods are also common when development teams are funded via a fixed-price funding model or in outsourcing situations because the stakeholders typically want to ensure that they received the level of quality that they paid for.
  3. Production support. In enterprise environments most application development teams are working on new releases of a solution that already exist in production. Not only will they be working on the new release, they will also have the responsibility of addressing serious production problems that are escalated to them. The development team will often be referred to as “level three support” for the application because they will be the third (and last) team to be involved with fixing critical production problems. The primary advantage is that production emergencies associated with a specific solution are often resolved by the most qualified people — the actual developers of that solution. Another advantage is that it gives developers an appreciation of the kinds of things that occur in production, providing them with learning opportunities to improve the way that they design solutions in the first place. A potentially significant disadvantage is that the need to fix production emergencies will distract the development away from working on new functionality.
  4. Developer-led operations. This strategy turns up the dial on production support by having the development team be responsible for operating and supporting their own solution. This is often referred to as “you build it you run it.” This strategy has the benefits that it focuses the team on ensuring that their solution is easy to operate and support and it ensures that the most qualified people are the ones evolving the solution. However, this strategy results in Scrum teams producing silo solutions running on disparate platforms — luckily DAD teams are enterprise aware and include someone in the role of architecture owner who will guide the team in avoiding this very sort of architecture mistake. Another common strategy is to include someone with strong operations experience in your team. A developer-led operations strategy also runs the risk of varying levels of support quality as some teams will be better than others at this. Once again, teams that are enterprise aware will be following common guidelines and will reach out to other teams for help in improving their approach.

Of the four approaches listed above, the only one that is clearly a DevOps strategy is developer-led operations. The production support strategy is definitely a step in the right direction and is often seen as sufficient in many enterprises. If this is the case in your organization we recommend that you experiment with the developer-led operations strategy on a few teams to see how well it works for you. We suspect that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.