Why Startups need DevOps
There are thousands of startups created each year, with 90% of them proving unsuccessful. So what are those 10% doing differently?
In early 2018, CBInsights spoke to 101 startups that had failed and came up with a report on the top 20 reasons for their failures. It offers some insight into the necessary elements required to be successful, and it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Other than the two principal reasons being no market value and running out of cash, many companies failed because of a lack in one particular aspect of their company. Being out-competed, having a user-unfriendly product, ignoring customers and disharmony among the team were some of the other top reasons, and even if these seem unrelated, they all happened because the businesses lacked one thing.
It’s DevOps, but what is that?
When speaking with Mike Nichols, a Senior DevOps Engineer at Zipari (a health insurance consumer experience platform), he explained it clearly with only 11 words; “It’s the convergence of operations with development processes and vice versa.” It might seem self-explanatory as DevOps stands for Development Operations, but sometimes the most straightforward way of explaining something is the best.
There can be a lot of confusion about what exactly DevOps is, but once you break it down into its most essential parts, it becomes apparent. DevOps is what eliminates the barrier between development and operations. Therefore, when a product needs altering, there’s no back and forth between separate teams.
A DevOps team, however, isn’t a team where everyone does everything. DevOps is a way of eliminating barriers by creating a group of individuals of varying skill-sets and strengths that all work together to create a product. It’s a partnership amongst the members where they share knowledge, not a magical team of superhumans where everyone knows everything.
Another essential aspect of DevOps is automation. Many of the tasks involved in a startup involve repetition. Automating the redundant processes with computer algorithms and methods removes human error and gives IT teams the opportunity to move past these mundane tasks.
The tricky part is that DevOps looks a little bit different for every company; there’s no such thing as one size fits all and therefore a company can’t just follow a strict regimen on how to incorporate DevOps into their business. But once a business figures out how to incorporate it, they can’t help but reap the benefits.
What are the benefits of DevOps?
1. Fewer Problems
When I asked Mike what the benefits were to having DevOps in an organization, he quickly responded with “Well, there are less problems with the application!”
In a startup, the most critical part is the product, and if the engineers are spending hours upon hours trying to fix common mistakes, nobody's happy. DevOps helps to make the most crucial part of a startup, the product, run better and with fewer errors. This one benefit right here makes DevOps worthwhile for a startup.
2. Increased understanding
Mike also pointed out that with a DevOps team, everyone knows how the application is used and that is hugely beneficial. Both sides, operation and development, have a better understanding of what is going on because they’re working so closely together. Things are not as easily misconstrued or miscommunicated because the development team understands the operation side and the operation side understands the development side.
3. Consumer Knowledge
Also, when development and operations teams work together, Mike added that the developers know the metrics of the app a lot better. They have a much better understanding of the number of people using the app and how it’s used, so the development team understands how much they need to scale the application.
4. Higher Customer Satisfaction
Furthermore, if a startup has strong DevOps, customers tend to be much more satisfied with the product. The time saved from using DevOps allows the company to take customer complaints into account. 14% of startups said that a significant reason that they failed is that they ignored their customers, and unhappy customers mean fewer sales and therefore less money to keep the startup alive. It doesn’t matter how great the product is, if a startup doesn’t keep their customers happy, it won’t be successful.
5. Increased Team Agility
DevOps also helps to make teams more flexible and agile. In a startup, it’s easy to focus on creating a particular product solely. But then if something changes in the market or the product requires alteration, it becomes challenging for the startup to change directions. But with DevOps, instead of it taking days for a change in the product to get approved, it might only take a few minutes. 19% of startups said they failed because they were outcompeted. If the product comes together more quickly, then the time-to-market is faster and thus reduces the chances of being beaten by another company.
6. Better Communication
The lack of barriers improves collaboration because, without the rigid borders, there are many more daily conversations and understanding between workers. You may recall that 13% of startups said that they failed due to team disharmony. In the early stages of a startup, everything is so volatile, and the stakes are so high that it’s easy to have conflict. But the increased communication and collaboration could prevent that one disagreement that led to the demise of the startup.
7. Happier workers
Not only does DevOps decrease friction amongst coworkers, but it also promotes more content and productive teams. DevOps affects the culture, and workers who like the culture are happier and more motivated to work hard.
Finally, DevOps automates many of the mundane and redundant tasks, so IT staff can focus on making their product the best it can be and working on creative innovations that help their product stand out.
According to the 2017 State of DevOps Report, businesses that successfully practice DevOps spend 21% less time on unplanned/debugging work and 44% more time on new work in comparison to companies where DevOps isn’t successfully exercised. In a startup, that is a significant amount of time to save when every single day is a race to put the product on the market or keep it alive.
But, do startups need DevOps?
This answer is plain and simple. If the startup doesn’t invest in DevOps, there’s a higher likelihood of being a part of that 90%. The chances are that the competitor is investing in it because, according to Statista, only 3% of companies haven’t invested in DevOps or aren’t planning on it. Don’t let your company be part of the 3%.
When speaking with Mike, I asked him whether he thought it was essential that a startup has a strong DevOps team. He’d noticed a common theme of startups not effectively recruiting DevOps employees early on with it typically coming back to hurt the company later on and costing much more at that stage. It’s the hard world of startups; you need to spend money to make money.
He also pointed out that the reason the startups he’d worked with had developed such strong DevOps teams was that they needed a strong DevOps team to get past the first round of funding and to continue getting funding. If the startup hadn’t invested at this point, they’re essentially forced to start investing in DevOps because they’ll hit a barrier to getting more funding.
DevOps is a way to run your business that’s more efficient than many other strategies. It creates a culture of collaboration and communication that can adapt to the customers’ needs. It may be challenging to implement, but your startup will have the upper hand over companies that don’t have a DevOps team or don’t integrate it into their business effectively. Having a good DevOps team might cost more initially, but if it’s the difference between a successful startup and a failing one, isn’t it worth it?
Written by Cassandra Cole