In our article series on DevOps - Development & Operations - you'll gain insight into what DevOps is, the challenges it addresses, and the value it brings to renewables. In this article, we'll delve into the mindset required to implement DevOps within an organization and the importance of striking a balance between a zero-failure culture and a DevOps culture.
As described in articles #1 and #2, DevOps is the key to greater agility and significant efficiency gains in renewables. Both manufacturers and operators must scale at a considerably faster pace, develop and deploy at higher cadences, and on a larger scale to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand. DevOps can pave the way for the necessary digitalization and automation, but it's not a magic solution. For most companies, reaping the benefits necessitates a cultural shift and a buy-in to the DevOps mindset.
In practical terms, this means creating a culture and mentality that foster collaboration, communication, and agility among development and operations teams and with the business. Development and operations work closely together, share responsibility for the entire software lifecycle, and approach tasks with a flexible mindset to deliver value to the business through Continuous Integration (CI) and software delivery. The DevOps mindset also requires viewing errors in certain areas as opportunities for learning and improvement, rather than promoting a 100% zero-failure culture.
In many people's eyes, there's a schism between agile development and the zero-failure culture inherent in the supply sector, including renewables. Concerns for supply reliability leave no room for errors, and thus both manufacturers and operators have a strong focus on reliability and robustness. Infrastructure must be safeguarded against overloads, breakdowns, security threats, etc., so there are areas like monitoring where measures with many process steps and controls are entirely appropriate.
However, there are also areas where it's advantageous to release the brakes. This applies, for example, to development, where many process benefits are missed if everything is done with belts and suspenders. In SCADAMINDS, we've equipped major players to onboard new business faster and more efficiently to a growing portfolio based on DevOps principles and tools. This has reduced the turnaround time from development to deployment to weeks instead of months and has enabled smaller projects, previously rejected, to be economically viable because they require fewer resources.
In short, it's natural for precautionary principles to dominate the closer you get to the operational part, but conversely, you must be careful not to let them spread too much in the preceding phases. When introducing DevOps, the core task is thus to find the balance between the critical areas that require special measures and the areas where heavy, time-consuming process steps are not necessary.
There are no ready-made formulas for this equation. It varies from operator to operator and from manufacturer to manufacturer, depending on what measures they have decided on and what regulatory requirements they are subject to, such as regional regulations. Therefore, the approach to implementing DevOps is also individual. Since DevOps is so much about embracing a new mindset, it's crucial that it's a business decision with top management support. The best outcome is achieved when implementation respects the natural zero-failure or precautionary culture and invests the necessary time and resources in training, not only in DevOps tools but also in the entire mindset.
In other words, to fully benefit from DevOps, you must think and work much more like a software organization. COWI is currently in the process of implementing this transition. Read the COWI case here.
With DevOps as the driving force and the right implementation, the path to success is paved.