Project & Support versus DevOps and Service teams

The funding model for the majority of the worlds IT projects is fundamentally flawed, and the fall out is, over time, broken systems, lacking security and legacy systems.

It’s pretty easy to see that digital systems are the lifeblood of most organisations today. From banking, stock inventory and tracking, HR systems. And the majority of these critical operations have been deployed as “projects”, and then “migrate to support”. And it’s that “migrate to support” that is the problem.

Support roles are typically over subscribed, and under empowered. It’s a cost saving exercise to minimise the overhead, by taking the more expensive development resources and moving them to a fresh project, while more commodity problem solving labour comes along to triage operational run time issues. However, that support function has no history in the design and architecture, and often either has no access to the development and test environments to continue doing managed change, or is not empowered to do so. The end result is that Support teams use the deployed production features (eg: manually add a user to a standalone system) instead of driving incremental improvements (eg: automatically add a user base don the HR system being updated).

Contrast with a DevOps team, of dynamic size over time. The team that builds & tests & deploys & automates this more complete lifecycle, and stays with the critical line-of-business system, becomes a Service Team. Any changes they need to perform are not applied in production locally, as is often the case with “Support teams”, but in the Development environment. This then should pass automated testing and feedback loops before being promoted to a higher environment. Sounds great, yeah?

Unfortunately, economic realities are the constraint here. Both the customer, and consultancy are trying to minimise cost, not maximise capability. And navigating a procurement and legal team is something that the procurement cycle wants to do as rarely as possible, not on a continuous basis.

Contrast a Service team focus, of variable size over time, containing different capabilities over time. The cost for this team varies over time, based upon the required skill set. The team objective is to make the Best Service they can, and need to drive from metrics: Availability, Latency, Accuracy while meeting strict security requirements.

From the Service team’s perspective, they obviously need remuneration for their time, but also want to take a sense of pride in their work, and a sense of achievement.

A Support Team is not a Service Team, as they don’t have the full Software Lifecycle Management capability and/or Data Lifecycle Management capability. A Service Team should never be one person; that’s one step away from being zero people. A Service Team may look after more than one service, but not so many that they do not have crystal clear focus on any service.

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