How DevOps Could Change Your Business

Henry Ford turned the U.S. auto industry on its head when he introduced the idea of prefabricating components at remote sites, and then putting them together on a production line. Despite many industries following suit, software lagged behind until 2008, when Andrew Clay Shafer and Patrick Debois told the Agile Conference there was a better way to develop code:
– Write the Code
– Test the Code
– Use the Code
– Evaluate, Schedule for Next Review

The term ?DevOps? is short for Development and Operations. It first appeared in Belgium, where developers refined Shafer and Depois? ideas. Since then, DevOps became a counter movement against the belief that software development is a linear process and has largely overwhelmed it.

DevOps – A Better Way

DevOps emerged at an exciting time in the IT industry, with new technology benefiting from a faster internet. However, the 2008 world recession was also beginning to bite. Developers scampered to lower their human resource costs and get to market sooner.

The DevOps method enabled them to colloborate across organizational boundaries and work together to write, quality assure and performance test each piece of code produced in parallel.
DevOps? greater time-efficiency got them to market sooner and helped them steal a march on the competition.

There are many advantages to DevOps when we work in this collaborative way. Cooperation improves relationships between developers, quality assurers and end users. This helps ensure a better understanding of the other drivers and a more time-effective product.

Summary of DevOps Objectives

DevOps spans the entire delivery pipeline, and increases the frequency with which progress is reviewed, and updates are deployed. The benefits of this include:

? Faster time to market and implementation

? Lower failure rate of new releases

? Shortened lead time for bug fixes and updates

The Psycho-Social Implications of DevOps

DevOps drills through organization borders and traditional work roles. Participants must welcome change and take on board new skills. Its interdepartmental approach requires closer collaboration across structural boundaries and greater focus on overarching business goals.

Outsourcing the detail to freelancers on the Internet adds a further layer of opportunity. Cultures and time zones vary, requiring advanced project management skills. Although cloud-based project management software provides adequate tools, it needs an astute mind to build teams that are never going to meet.

The DevOps movement is thus primarily a culture changer, where parties to a project accept the good intentions of their collaborators, while perhaps tactfully proposing alternatives. There is more to accepting a culture than using a new tool. We have to blend different ways of thinking together. We conclude by discussing three different methods to achieve this.

Three Ways to Deploy DevOps in your?Organisation

If you foresee regular DevOps-based projects, consider running your entire organisation through an awareness program to redirect thinking. This will help non-participants understand why DevOps members may be ?off limits? when they are occupied with project work. Outsourcing tasks to contracting freelancers can mitigate this effect.

There are three implementation models associated with DevOps although these are not mutually exclusive.

? Use systems thinking. Adopt DevOps as company culture and apply it to every change regardless of whether the process is digital, or not

? Drive the process via increased understanding and feedback from key receivers. Allow this to auto-generate participative DevOps projects

? Adopt a continuous improvement culture. DevOps is not only for mega upgrades. Feedback between role players is paramount for success everywhere we go.

You can use the DevOps concept everywhere you go and whenever you need a bridge to better understanding of new ideas. We diminish DevOps when we restrict its usefulness to the vital role it plays in software development. The philosophy behind it belongs in every business.

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How Alcoa Canned the Cost of Recycling

Alcoa is one of the world?s largest aluminium smelting and casting multinationals, and involves itself in everything from tin cans, to jet engines to single-forged hulls for combat vehicles. Energy costs represent 26% of the company?s total refining costs, while electricity contributes 27% of primary production outlays. Its Barberton Ohio plant shaved 30% off both energy use and energy cost, after a capital outlay of just $21 million, which for it, is a drop in the bucket.

Aluminium smelting is so expensive that some critics describe the product as ?solid electricity?. In simple terms, the method used is electrolysis whereby current passes through the raw material in order to decompose it into its component chemicals. The cryolite electrolyte heats up to 1,000 degrees C (1,832 degrees F) and converts the aluminium ions into molten metal. This sinks to the bottom of the vat and is collected through a drain. Then they cast it into crude billets plugs, which when cooled can be re-smelted and turned into useful products.

The Alcoa Barberton factory manufactures cast aluminium wheels across approximately 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters) of plant. It had been sending its scrap to a sister company 800 miles away; who processed it into aluminium billets – before sending them back for Barberton to turn into even more wheels. By building its own recycling plant 60 miles away that was 30% more efficient, the plant halved its energy costs: 50% of this was through process engineering, while the balance came from transportation.

The transport saving followed naturally. The recycling savings came from a state-of-the-art plant that slashed energy costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly enough, processing recycled aluminium uses just 5% of energy needed to process virgin bauxite ore. Finally, aluminium wheels are 45% lighter than steel, resulting in an energy saving for Alcoa Barberton?s customers too.

The changes helped raise employee awareness of the need to innovate in smaller things too, like scheduling production to increase energy efficiency and making sure to gather every ounce of scrap. The strategic change created 30 new positions and helped secure 350 existing jobs.

The direction that Barberton took in terms of scrap metal recycling was as simple as it was effective. The decision process was equally straightforward. First, measure your energy consumption at each part of the process, then define the alternatives, forecast the benefits, confirm and implement. Of course, you also need to be able to visualise what becomes possible when you break with tradition.

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Convert visits to sales to repeat purchases

The moment you start seeing more than a thousand unique visitors in just one day, we won’t be surprised if you’d be grinning ear to ear the entire week. But when weeks turn into months, you’ll then remember why you started off on this venture in the first place … and it wasn’t about just owning an immensely popular website.

People, like you, who’ve chosen to invest in eCommerce were most likely thinking along the lines of great ROI, revenues, and profits. Now that you have thousands of visitors, how would you like to have, say for a start, 1% of them buying the products on your site?

You know more about your own product prices; you do the math. But what might really interest you is that a slight change in that 1% conversion rate can already spell a big difference in your profits. Now imagine bringing that 1% up to at least 10%. That’s possible, but not if you simply rely on guesswork.

We rely on tests applicable to complex multi-variable systems, just like today’s typical eCommerce websites, in determining which combination of copy text, landing page images, form layouts, and background colours generate higher conversion rates.

Here’s how we’ll convert your visitors into buyers:

  • We’ll conduct A/B or even multivariate tests on your eCommerce website, thus eliminating guesswork in determining how to increase those conversion rates.
  • We’ll perform on-site and off-site web analytics to gain a deeper understanding of web usage to aid in our optimisation operations.
  • Through our expertise in copywriting, graphics and web designing, UI designing, and website QA, we can enhance and fine tune your site to give each visitor a uniquely engaging browsing experience.
  • We can also integrate CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems so that you’ll have the technical advantage to turn one-time buyers into repeat customers.
Knowing the Caveats in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has become such a buzzword in business circles today that many organisations both small and large, are quick to jump on the cloud bandwagon – sometimes a little too hastily.

Yes, the benefits of the cloud are numerous: reduced infrastructure costs, improved performance, faster time-to-market, capability to develop more applications, lower IT staff expenses; you get the picture. But contrary to what many may be expecting or have been led to believe, cloud computing is not without its share of drawbacks, especially for smaller organisations who have limited knowledge to go on with.

So before businesses move to the cloud, it pays to learn a little more about the caveats that could meet them along the way. Here are some tips to getting started with cloud computing as a small business consumer.

Know your cloud. As with anything else, knowledge is always key. Because it is a relatively new tool in IT, it’s not surprising that there is some confusion about the term cloud computing among many business owners and even CIOs. According to the document The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, cloud computing has five essential characteristics, three basic service models (Saas, Paas and Iaas), and four deployment models (public, community, private and hybrid).

The first thing organisations should do is make a review of their operations and evaluate if they really need a cloud service. If they would indeed benefit from cloud computing, the next steps would be deciding on the service model that would best fit the organisation and choosing the right cloud service provider. These factors are particularly important when you consider data security and compliance issues.

Read the fine print. Before entering into a contract with a cloud provider, businesses should first ensure that the responsibilities for both parties are well-defined, and if the cloud vendor has the vital mechanisms in place for contingency measures. For instance, how does the provider intend to carry out backup and data retrieval operations? Is there assurance that the business’ critical data and systems will be accessible at all times? And if not, how soon can the data be available in case of a temporary shutdown of the cloud?

Also, what if either the company or the cloud provider stops operations or goes bankrupt? It should be clear from the get go that the data remains the sole property of the consumer or company subscribing to the cloud.

As you can see, there are various concerns that need to be addressed closely before any agreement is finalised. While these details are usually found in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of most outsourcing and servicing contracts, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of cloud contracts.

Be aware of possible unforeseen costs. The ability of smaller companies to avail of computing resources on a scalable, pay-as-you-go model is one of the biggest selling points of cloud computing. But there’s also an inherent risk here: the possibility of runaway costs. Rather than allowing significant cost savings, small businesses could end up with a bill that’s bound to blow a big hole in their budget.

Take for example the case of a software company cited on InformationWeek.com to illustrate this point. The 250-server cluster the company rented from a cloud provider was inadvertently left turned on by the testing team over the weekend. As a result, their usual $2,300 bill ballooned to a whopping $23,400 over the course of one weekend.

Of course, in all likelihood, this isn’t going to happen to every small and midsize enterprise that shifts to the cloud. However, this should alert business owners, finance executives, and CEOs to look beyond the perceived savings and identify potential sources of unexpected costs. What may start as a fixed rate scheme for on-demand computing resources, may end up becoming a complex pricing puzzle as the needs of the business grow, or simply because of human error as the example above shows.

The caveats we’ve listed here are among the most crucial ones that soon-to-be cloud adopters need to keep in mind. But should these be reasons enough for businesses to stop pursuing a cloud strategy? Most definitely not. Armed with the right information, cloud computing is still the fastest and most effective way for many small enterprises to get the business off the ground with the lowest start-up costs.

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