Sometimes teams that do not usually get a chance to work together start working together and the results surprise both sides. This is the story of the two branches of the IT department, Apps and Ops. Apps is the work related to 'software application development' (custom built or commercial off the shelf software) and Ops referes to keeping the lights on in your data center or your teams personal electronic devises. For decades these two groups were in deep seclusion, but today these teams are coming together throughout the concept of release management. Release management is the art of how and when to safely release software into production, how to maintain it and when to retire that software successfully.
With this recent coming together of the Apps and the Ops around release management – the orchestration of said releases will become the primary focus of CIOs around the globe in 2013 and beyond. Up until recently terms like continuous Integration of software code or continuous delivery of software features could not be handled by the limits of the technology of yesteryear. With both programming languages maturing and hardware advancing through the maturity of public cloud infrastructure providers these ideas seem obvious today. As a relaxed user, why would not I want to get software continuously delivered to me? And now that you can, you demand it. The early adopters of continuously delivered software are now putting pressure on the rest of the bell curve.
Also, highly regulated business like banks will need to navigate these waters while stimulating risks of rouge or uninformed developers running 'shadow' IT operations. Shadow IT operations can be a nefarious practice wheree small groups of developers take big risks on process or technology without the knowledge of the organization at large which creates huge unaccounted for risk to heavily regulated organizations where compliance is a rule not a choice. This is one of the pain points pointed out by Tom Grant of Forrester Research in his article entitle Compliance Is A Hurdle, Not A Barrier, To Agile.
In 2013 and beyond CIOs will begin focusing on release management chains and specifically process strategies around those chains that orchestrate the Dev and the Ops worlds. As users and customers will be claiming continuous deployments of new and a / b tested feature sets, the CIO will see risk around said deployment. How does a CIO prepare her organization around defect management, around code quality and technical debt issues, around retirement of rarely used features as well as other risks around software deployment like the aforementioned fear of being out of compliance due to a shadow or rogue group? The answers will be in creating automated release management (ARA) process templates that cross jurisdictional lines between Dev teams and Ops teams.
ARA is indeed a culture shift. Thinking 'automation first' is a major breakthrough for organizations that usually do not fear change (eg those that exist in heavily regulated industries and see risk and change as "to be avoided"). There are a number of vendors that offer ARA solutions all with benefits and drawbacks. But as the ARA industry matures the solutions will become richer benefiting IT department heads everywhere. My advice to you, as 2013 planning cycle begins, adding researching the best ARA solution to the mix of things you will do this year because your customers will thank you.