DASA competence & reference model : Using the best of Agile and DevOps to become a high performing product team

High performing product teams : Agile + DevOps + Lean product management = Excellence in software development, deployment and operations

As organizations increasingly rely on software to deliver business services, they are realizing that they need to excel at developing, deploying and operating software based products and services. But that isn’t easy – building and operating software systems has been and will continue to be one of the most complex human endeavours.

Agile and DevOps emerged as a set of management and technical practices to help teams and organizations manage the inherent complexity of software development. However, because Agile and DevOps emerged at different points in time, and in response to different challenges and because they have different manifestations, there is a natural tendency to treat them as mutually exclusive.

Agile’s genesis was the publication of agile manifesto twenty years ago, while DevOps movement began in 2009, triggered by the talk “10+ Deploys per day : Dev and Ops cooperation at Flickr” and the subsequent launch of DevOps days.

Agile emerged in response to the challenges of waterfall software development, while DevOps gathered steam with realization that technological innovation and the changing customer expectations – always on, always available software services – meant that it was both possible and increasingly necessary to get new features into the hands of users while maintaining operational stability.

Agile’s typical manifestations are product development and work management practices such as Scrum and Kanban, whereas DevOps is usually associated with tooling, automation and continuous delivery.

Given, these differences in timeline, the circumstances that lead to their emergence and their manifestations, it is natural to think Agile and DevOps are mutually exclusive practices that can be adopted and practised in isolation. The extreme yet surprisingly common manifestation of this thinking is the emergence of the antipattern of agile being considered as something that the development team does, and DevOps is something that release and operations teams do.

Needless to say this antipattern is counterproductive to the urgent business imperative of becoming better in the development, deployment and operations of software based product and services. So, instead of considering agile and DevOps as separate practices – they aren’t, they are two sides of the same coin – think of DevOps as agile for the digital age: where the definition of done for a product has shifted from being ready for release to the product being live in production, with the product team actively learning from its usage to further develop the product.

In the larger scheme of things, what you call the practices you adopt to become better at developing, deploying and operating software based products – agile, scrum, scaled agile, DevOps or something else – doesn’t matter. Labels matter less, what matters more is the ability of the product team to have the capabilities that allow it to develop, deliver and operate software based products and services that meet business demands and consumer expectations in the digital age.

Avoiding the semantics debate, we simply refer to digital age product teams as high performing product teams, and offer a learning and development path for product teams to become high performing product teams using DASA’s (DevOps Agile Skills Association) reference model. and its associated competence model.

DASA (DevOps Agile Skills Association) has comprehensively codified in the DASA DevOps competence model the four skills and eight knowledge areas that teams need to develop to become high performing product teams.

Enhancing the actionable guidance further, DASA has defined three work areas within a product team, and they are identified as work profiles. The work profiles are Specify and Verify, Enable and Scale and Create and Deliver. A high performing product team will collectively have a level of expertise (novice to expert) in the four skill and eight knowledge areas and through a process of continual learning aim to achieve mastery at a team level in all the areas.

We understand that becoming a high performing product team is a journey, so we have a development path uniquely tailored to a team’s requirement. It starts with DevOps fundamentals workshop (a two-day work shop delivered virtually). The two-day workshop provides a big picture view of the different skills and knowledge areas and how to tie them together to become a high performing product team. At the end of the workshop, each team member does a DASA DevOps Quick Scan, and gets a report on their maturity level in each of the knowledge and skill areas. Based on their work profiles team members upskill in the areas identified in the scan. When the individuals results are collated, the team has an understanding of its current state in each of these areas – Novice, Competent, Proficient, Expert, Master – and can then use the reference model to chart the learning and continuous improvement path to become a high performing product team.

In addition, the three roles of leader, coach and product owner provide the strategic guidance and leadership support to help product teams develop from their current level of competence to the desired level of competence as well as align product teams to achieve business outcomes. So, with the DASA competence model, the DASA reference model and the supporting training and certification program, we can help individuals and teams acquire the right mix of skills and knowledge, to become high performing product teams that excel in developing, deploying and operating software based products and services – an increasingly important business imperative.

PS: It doesn’t matter if you are a scrum or kanban shop, or have adopted an agile scaling framework such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFE), Disciplined Agile (DA) or Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) or you have your own homegrown framework for scaling your teams, the DASA competence and reference model works in any of these situations. With its four skills areas, eight knowledge areas, three work profiles, three roles and the competence scan, you can understand your teams current competence and chart out a path to achieve the skills and knowledge your product teams will have to acquire to become high performing product teams.

Becoming an agile practioner : PMI -ACP guidance

Due to a confluence of factors, individuals and organizations are rushing to become agile. One of the visible factors driving this dash to agility is the publicly stated desire  of most organizations to become more digital – become more software driven, by building and operating their business products as either purely digital products or physical products with a large digital component. And since  the “Agile” way of working is the only successful way of conceiving, developing and operating  successful digital products, becoming agile has become fundamental to becoming a digital organization.  As a consequence their is an explosion of organizational demand for individuals with agile knowledge and skills.

Continue reading “Becoming an agile practioner : PMI -ACP guidance”

DevOps in a day : Capgemini DevOps series, Toronto.

Capgemini DevOps series, April 25, 2019 ( Image courtesy, Capgemini)

DevOps is an expansive management practice hence challenging to do well but doing DevOps well is a strategic necessity. It is expansive because it touches various elements in the value stream of software development, software deployment and software operations . And it is a strategic necessity because business is increasingly mediated through software, which means to succeed in business, businesses have to become very good at developing, deploying and operating software i.e. they have to become very good at Agile & DevOps. So, for the April 25th DevOps day, the team at Capgemini had the formidable task of covering the breadth of DevOps, while providing practical advice to address the strategic imperative of doing DevOps well.

For pulling off this daunting task, impressively, a big shout to folks at Capgemini (Ravi Gandla, Rishi Singh, Manish Joshi) and their partners ( Compuware, Collabnet, Confluent, Datical, Delphix, Parasoft, Xebia labs). With well chosen agenda topics and battle hardened DevOps veterans as speakers, on April 25th at the Capgemini DevOps day, attendees got a timely appreciation of the breadth of DevOps as well as practical advice on doing DevOps well.

Kicking the day off, Ravi Gandla, Capgemini offered the strategic context of DevOps and what Capgemini is seeing in the market place. Next, Sam Knutson, Compuware provided an inspirational real life story of Agile & DevOps success at Compuware. And, how using Agile & DevOps practices, Compuware dramatically reduced the cycle time for developing and delivering its mainframe software products. A practical tool to reduce cycle time by making work visible, is value stream mapping. Value stream mapping was the topic of the next session. The combined team of experts from Collabnet, Compuware and Capgemeni provided a comprehensive overview of Value stream mapping and how to use it effectively to make work visible in the software development and delivery life-cycle. As expected, Cultural transformation, the next topic on the agenda, was the most fraught topic. The panelists agreed that cultural transformation was the toughest nut to crack, while also agreeing that it is a hard requirement to do DevOps well. Some valuable pieces of advice for getting culture right, is to focus on people, systems thinking and organizational structure.

Scaling agile and DevOps in the enterprise, the first of the afternoon sessions, focused on the myriad challenges enterprises face in scaling agile & DevOps and offered practical advice on addressing them. Typical challenges are people related – leadership buy-in, re-skilling and up-skilling ; technology related – tools, architecture and process related – legacy processes. The two key takeaways from the next break out session, The formula for Enterprise DevOps transformation were : 1) Getting started on the DevOps journey is important and 2) Automating the delivery pipeline is a huge improvement over the existing way of delivering software into production. The next topic, Shift left with test automation, focused on the need to integrate test automation with CI/CD pipeline. Only by shifting left on testing and automating testing, will businesses be able to rapidly deliver high quality software. The day ended with a panel discussion on the future of DevOps, with agreement that doing DevOps well is hard but doing it well is a strategic necessity.

And thanks to the folks at Capgemini, the speakers and the panelists ; attendees of Capgemini DevOps day in Toronto on April 25, 2019 were better off by the end of the day than when they started off in the morning : by evening, they had an appreciation of breadth of DevOps – the various elements it touches, and practical advice on how to do DevOps well – a strategic imperative of our times.

The business case for DevOps : Fully realize the business benefits of Agile software Development

The thinking that Agile software development and DevOps are different and separate frameworks, and hence need to be adopted separately seems to be taking hold. This is obviously, incorrect and has insidious long term consequence as it will perpetuate the divide between Dev and Ops. Although, Agile software development preceded DevOps – Agile software development became mainstream with the publication of Agile manifesto in 2001, and DevOps has only become popular recently – DevOps doesn’t replace Agile software development but merely extends it. If Agile software development, with its iterative development and incremental software delivery model didn’t exist, there would be no need for DevOps.

What DevOps along with the associated practices of Continuous delivery
does, is solve the ” Last mile problem of software delivery.” While the aspirational goal of Agile software development was to deliver “working software” . Working software rarely meant software that was deployed in production, being used by end users and delivering value to the business. Usually working software meant software that was successfully demoed to stakeholders. This meant that the process for deploying the software into production continued to be a very time consuming waterfall process, with the software and associated artifacts being handed over to the operations team for production deployment. Two bad things happened as a consequence, delayed feed back to development – due to time lag of weeks or months from completion of development to the actual deployment into production; high risk release – it was expected that the deployment into production would break production, so to minimize risk the releases into production were infrequent, by design.


The costly business consequence of these two factors – delayed feed back to development & high risk release, meant organizations that had invested in Agile software development never fully realized its business benefits. DevOps with the concept of cross functional teams – dev, ops, QA, DBA, Security, etc – and using the technical practices of Continuous delivery, solves the last mile problem, ensuring organizations can finally realize the benefits of their investments in Agile software development, as illustrated in this brief video (2 Mins 25 Secs).

Realize the business benefits of Agile software development with DevOps and Continuous Delivery

So, the key take way : DevOps extends Agile software development and helps organizations fully realize the benefits of Agile software development. Hence, it is imperative that organizations that are implementing Agile transformation programs, extend Agile software development to include the DevOps way of working – Dev and Ops teams working together to build software in increments , with the ability to deploy software into production, on demand.

Competing in the digital age with Lean Startup, Agile software development and DevOps

To compete in the digital age , it is becoming increasingly important to move away from a activity based functional teams to multi disciplinary product teams consisting of business ( product owners, designers, UX , business analysts… ) and IT (developers, testers, security, operations …. ) folks. However, for the newly created product based teams to become successful they need to make local decisions that are strategically sound – aligned with the organization’s strategy, which means they need to understand the larger business context in which they are operate as well as how organization’s compete in the digital age.

Unlike the industrial age, the digital age is characterized by rapid technological innovation, demanding customers and a globally connected world, with new products and new business models constantly threatening existing products and business models. As a consequence, to survive and thrive in the digital age, organizations have the dual and competing requirement to exploit existing products and business models while exploring new products and business models, at the same time. And, the only way to do that is by adopting and adapting these modern management practices that enable organizations to compete effectively : Lean Startup – To explore new products and business models by conducting experiments and obtaining validated learning through minimum viable product ( MVP ) ; Agile software development – to iteratively develop high quality software at speed ; and DevOps – to build the team structure of fully autonomous product teams with end to end responsibility for the product ( You build it, You run it teams) – to experiment, build, deploy, operate and learn from customer.

At DASA ( DevOps Agile Skills Association) we recommend the ” The three horizon’s model by Mehrdad Bagahai, Stephen Coley and David White ” and cover it extensively in the DASA DevOps Fundamentals course, as a way of organizing the portfolio of investments ( horizon 1, horizon 2 and horizon 3) and for structuring teams to support the three horizons. The Lean Enterprise, How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale, By Jez Humble, Barry O’Rielly, Joanne Molesky , recommends this model, as well.

Source : DASA DevOps fundamentals course book

Horizon 3 : This is the domain of lean start up, where the goal is to work with a defined runway ( of cost and time) to create experiments – build a minimum viable product to confirm or invalidate the hypothesis. The aim of the experiment is to validate product / market fit, and the goal is to do it by building the minimal amount of code. If the hypothesis is confirmed , persist with the idea, if not pivot and move on to testing the next idea. Validated product ideas and business models then move to horizon 2. To excel in horizon 3, teams need to have the leadership mindset of innovators.

Horizon 2 : The validated product idea now arrives in horizon 2. The goal in horizon 2 is to grow and market the product to generate a new revenue stream which drives capital investment and expansion of engineering capability. And from an engineering perspective the goal is to deliver the product at speed and to scale it rapidly, which requires constant monitoring of customer usage and delivery of new product features. The leadership mindset of horizon 2 teams is that of builders – grow the business entrepreneurs and highly skilled engineers.

Horizon 1 : The goal in horizon 1 is to operate the product at the lowest possible cost while maximizing margin. The leadership mindset of horizon 1 product teams is that of operators supporting the business in achieving revenue, market share and profitability goals.

To drive home the urgent need for organizations to adopt and adapt the modern management practices of Lean startup, Agile and DevOps that enable them to compete effectively in the digital age – by exploiting existing business models while exploring new business models, here is an illustration of Intuit’s and Google’s use of the three horizons model.

Source :
Lean Enterprise, How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale, By Jez Humble, Barry O’Rielly, Joanne Molesky

If this has piqued your interest, check out and attend the DASA’s ( DevOps agile skills association) DevOps fundamental course, for guidance on building high performing teams required to compete in the digital age or feel free to request an in-house training session.

The culture conundrum : To succeed with Agile and DevOps transformation, you need to get the culture right.

One of the key success factors in Agile and DevOps transformation is the culture of the teams and the organization. However, since culture is intangible it is difficult to get a sense of whether you are getting culture right or wrong. So, instead of getting caught up prematurely in the minutiae of how to get culture right, we will define the target state culture and offer helpful advice on how to get to it,  while acknowledging that each organization will have to carve it’s own path to target state culture.

Continue reading “The culture conundrum : To succeed with Agile and DevOps transformation, you need to get the culture right.”

Succeeding with DevOps: Google’s DevOps survey findings mapped to DASA’s DevOps competence model

DASA DevOps Competence Modeldasa-devops-fundamentals-competence-model-17102018

First the expected good news,  “Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Study Competitive advantage through DevOps” –  a survey sponsored by Google Cloud , confirmed that DevOps delivers key business results. Survey respondents who adopted the DevOps approach say that it has improved speed to market ( named by 70%), productivity (67%), innovation (66%), and product / service quality (64%).

And now, the not so unexpected  but still disappointing news, only 10% of the surveyed organizations have successfully used the DevOps approach to achieve the goal of  developing and deploying new software / applications into production quickly.

¹HarvardStudyGoogleDevOpsSurvey

The gap between the promise of DevOps and making DevOps work, points to the obvious truth – doing DevOps well is really hard.  And one of the reason why doing DevOps well is so hard  is because, as the report rightly points out:  “Adopting DevOps is not a technology project. It requires changes to staffing, organization structure, performance management, and even culture ¹”. It is easy to do a tools implementation and declare victory, but that wont get organizations the benefit of DevOps – developing and putting new software / applications into production, quickly.

To help organizations successfully adopt DevOps and realize its business benefits, a DevOps change program should consider both the technical and management aspects . DASA’s ( DevOps and Agile Skills Association, a community driven organization ) competence framework provides that urgently needed holistic guidance on how to structure the DevOps change program  in order to do DevOps well.

So, for  organizations that want to join the 10% who have mastered rapid software delivery with DevOps, here are the fundamental categories of competencies that they have to build at an individual, team and organizational level, based on DASA’s DevOps competence model mapped to Google’s DevOps study and reaffirmed by it.

DASA’s  Four Skill areas : Courage, Team building, DevOps leadership, Continuous improvement

Google survey : Competitive advantage through DevOps study findings : ¹

” Teams to be empowered to act with high degree of autonomy”

“sense of psychological safety to take risks and make mistakes”

” using failure as an opprotunity to learn, and continually experimenting to drive improvement.”

DASA”s Eight Knowledge areas : Business value optimization, Business analysis, Architecture and Design, Programming, Continuous delivery, Test specification, Infrastructure engineering, Security risk and compliance

Google survey : Competitive advantage through DevOps study findings : ¹

” Matching speed with quality – By engaging the people who will use and maintain applications early and often while also involving developers in the operational aspects of running their systems, DevOps not only increases the likelihood that software will meet user’s needs, but it ensures that quality is built-in from the start, too”

”  Full cycle nature of DevOps – The whole cycle – from design, to development, verification, testing, release, and management of the service at the telecom provider – is tightly coupled”

” For an IT service provider, the ultimate business goals may be to increase reliability at lower cost. For consumer facing business, however, the goals may focus more on speed to market and customer relevance.”

Roles : DevOps leader, DevOps Product owner, DevOps coach

Google survey : Competitive advantage through DevOps study findings : ¹

” The role of senior leaders is set clear goals and objectives and make their commitment visible”

” That’s why one of the most important roles in a DevOps operation is the product owner and why it’s critical to view what’s being rolled out as a product that is developed and manged over its life-cycle, not a project with a set beginning and end.”

“Increasingly product owners come from the LOB.”

” Many companies employ DevOps coaches”

So, here it is – further confirmation of the holistic and practical guidance provided by the community driven DevOps Agile Skills Association, to help individuals, teams and organizations do DevOps well. Leverage it to realize the elusive but achievable promise of DevOps – the development and delivery of high quality software, rapidly.

References :

¹ Competitive advantage through DevOps – Improving Speed, Quality, and Efficiency in the Digital world, Havard Business Review Analytic Services, Research Report ( Sponsored by Google Cloud)

Redefining and reinventing project management for today’s post industrial digital age

In many organizations, employees know more about their work than their managers. This reality should force organizations that still cling to the old, top-down style of managing to recognize that many employees today are very capable of managing themselves

https://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/a-new-role-for-management-in-todays-post-industrial-organization/

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With this opening salvo, Mitch McCrimmon writing in the Ivey Business Journal, gets to the heart of the reality facing managers today and provides the intellectual case for managers to get rid of the industrial age mindset along with practical advice on redefining and reinventing the function of management for the post industrial age. Doing that would enable management to ” resume its rightful place as a core driver of organizational performance.”¹ ( Mitch McCrimmon 2010)Continue reading “Redefining and reinventing project management for today’s post industrial digital age”

Getting DevOps right : It is not just about technology, leadership and management matters

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It is a truism that to realise the benefits of a technology driven change initiative the focus has to be on deliberate leadership and management of the initiative, rather than an exclusive focus on technology and tools. However, that obvious truth gets lost, in the euphoria and excitement about the latest technology, especially in technologically driven movements such as DevOps. We now have a timely reminder that succeeding with DevOps is more than a technology or tool set implementation exercise. DASA’s ( DevOps Agile Skills Association) – an independent and open, members driven association supporting the development of DevOps training and certification to the global market – recent dialog with CIOs’ has confirmed the self-evident truth: leadership and management matters in delivering a successful DevOps initiative and sustaining the DevOps way of working.

The excerpt from the dialog with CIO is below. Building upon it, is an analysis of the 10 lessons learned from a leadership and management perspective.

Continue reading “Getting DevOps right : It is not just about technology, leadership and management matters”

Microsoft 365 : Help for the unsung

With more than 90% of the world’s data created in just the past few years, companies and individuals struggle to keep up with the accompanying security threats.

Luckily, The Unsung are here to help. They are the IT professionals who go largely unnoticed in the backdrop of offices around the world. They are hard at work protecting our data from cybercriminals.

Explore in this online comic, the story of The Unsung, the security heroes who ensure our data remains safe and secure from “faceless foes,” those who steal or corrupt corporate data for their own personal gains.

At RTI Consulting Services, we’re excited about the ways in which Microsoft 365 can help The Unsung within your company.

Contact us to find out how we can help you implement and utilize Microsoft 365 Business

  • To protect your company against external threats
  • To safeguard your data
  • While at the same time drive real productivity gains by allowing users to colloboarate securely with anyone, from any location, on any device using one integerated cloud service – Microsoft 365 Business.