Improving DevOps Collaboration: Challenges & Best Practices

devops collaboration

There is a tool for every task in DevOps, but the more tools you use, the harder it is to keep your infrastructure safe while working in a team, due to the increased risk of introducing bugs to your codebase. To ensure your workflows and processes are streamlined, first, you need to implement a collaboration culture.

What we will cover:

  1. What is DevOps collaboration?
  2. Why is DevOps collaboration important?
  3. 5 DevOps collaboration challenges
  4. Benefits of improving collaboration in the DevOps team
  5. 5 Best practices to improve DevOps collaboration
  6. How can a dedicated tool help improve DevOps collaboration?

What is DevOps collaboration?

DevOps collaboration is the process in which DevOps engineers work together inside or outside their team (usually with a software development department) to achieve a goal. By integrating diverse skills and perspectives, this collaboration enhances efficiency and accelerates project timelines. 

Here are some examples of goals that can be achieved via collaboration:

  • Infrastructure as code (IaC) changes
  • Continuous integration
  • Continuous delivery
  • Monitoring and logging
  • Governance
  • Application deployment
  • Performance improvement
  • Reliability

Why is DevOps collaboration important?

DevOps engineers ensure the reliability, scalability, and availability of your application. Collaboration aims to minimize human errors, ensure more people are accountable for change, make safer deployments, and properly document all changes.

Although collaborating inside the DevOps engineering team is important, their collaboration with the software engineers is also important to ensure that new features are rolled out fast, safely, and with minimum downtime.

5 DevOps collaboration challenges

DevOps collaboration, while transformative, presents some unique challenges that teams must navigate.

1. Pull request challenges

The most common means of DevOps collaboration is through a pull request. Usually, when you make changes to your code base, you open a pull request before merging them in the master branch and doing deployments.

Inside the pull request, you can see all the changes made to the files, but this is not very helpful for IaC, for example. If you are using a stateful IaC tool such as OpenTofu, Terraform, or Pulumi, it’s one thing to see the code changes, but it’s an entirely different one to see how those changes will impact the current state. That’s why such tools incorporate planning mechanisms., Combining them with a CI/CD platform and being able to comment back on the PR with the plan is very helpful and can really improve collaboration.

2. Role-based access control (RBAC) challenges

If RBAC is implemented poorly (either too loosely or too restrictively), collaboration issues arise. It is very difficult for someone with insufficient access to collaborate with other team members, but excessive permissions can mean things are deployed without the appropriate number of approvals or merge code that isn’t checked out by other team members.

3. Software engineers’ collaboration with DevOps engineers

Software Engineers need infrastructure to be able to test the different things they are developing. They may have no interest in touching infrastructure, so they rely on DevOps engineers to help them spin it up. This can lead to frustration and time lost, so sometimes they may work around the DevOps team to get everything up and running — and this can cause multiple issues (unexpected costs, downtime, etc.).

4. Lack of governance

Another big challenge for collaboration is governance, or rather, the lack of it. Imagine you have created a pull request for your IaC code that spawns 100 virtual machines. Even if you use loops, each of these machines will have a couple of lines of code associated with it. Even on a pull request, it can be hard to check all of the parameters associated with those instances, and you may accidentally approve a change that creates a virtual machine with an improper size, which may incur unexpected costs or reduce performance.

5. Use of inappropriate tooling

A lack of proper tooling can affect collaboration, and, although building different in-house automations can sometimes be helpful, it can be expensive from many points of view. 

Leverage infrastructure management platforms, implement governance, build self-service infrastructure, and use security vulnerability scanning to improve collaboration both inside and outside the DevOps team.

Benefits of improving collaboration in the DevOps team

Improving collaboration inside the DevOps team increases deployment frequency and therefore accelerates time to market. In the event of downtimes, a DevOps team that collaborates efficiently will probably respond faster to downtime and solve the issues that caused it, resulting in faster RPO/RTO.

By collaborating with software development teams, you enhance the quality of the software being released and make scaling and reliability easier to achieve.

5 best practices to improve DevOps collaboration

There are a couple of things you should consider to maximize the effectiveness of DevOps collaboration.

1. Encourage communication

Communication is key to improving collaboration. Having regular meetings, implementing processes, and challenging these processes, helps to break down silos and promote a culture of continuous learning and cooperation.

2. Embrace Agile

Agile significantly improves DevOps collaboration by enhancing communication inside the team, offering iterative development and continuous feedback, and making changes easy to tolerate. Having agile ceremonies like daily standups, planning, reviews, retrospectives, and grooming, keeps the DevOps team aligned on the goals and the overall process..

3. Use the proper tools for your workflows

Automating your workflows (building/testing/deploying) reduces the amount of manual work involved, speeds up operations, and ensures that repetitive tasks are handled consistently.

By leveraging monitoring and logging tools, you can provide your DevOps teams with real-time data about the system’s performance and also about operational health.

4. Implement a governance mechanism

Incorporating governance in your workflow helps DevOps engineers worry less about critical issues that may arise when code changes are made. With proper governance, you don’t need to worry about creating resources that shouldn’t be created and you won’t be required to check all the parameters of those resources.

Also, with proper governance, you enable decision-making that guides DevOps teams on how to handle different situations such as risk management, prioritizing tasks, and even resolving conflicts.

5. Standardize environments

Use IaC to manage your environments through code. Standardizing environments is beneficial and ensures changes are made incrementally, starting from the lower environments and gradually going up to the production environment. Debugging issues in the lower environments while doing peer programming is an efficient way to improve environment stability and collaboration.

How can a dedicated tool help improve DevOps collaboration?

With Spacelift, you can take your DevOps collaboration to the next level.

If you want to implement proper governance and security, you can take advantage of:

  • Policies
    • Plan – restrict resources, parameters of those resources, build custom policies for third-party tools
    • Approval – number of approvals required for a run, ability to run tasks only when receiving approvals
    • Notification – where to send notifications
    • Push – what happens when a pull request is open or merged
  • Private workers – the ability to run your workloads on your own infrastructure
  • Cloud Integrations – dynamic credentials for AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud
  • RBAC via Spaces and User Management
  • SSO via SAML 2.0 and OIDC

To improve collaboration between DevOps engineers and software developers, you need to provide the latter with the possibility of building self-service infrastructure. With Spacelift, developers are empowered to use self-service infrastructure via Blueprints and the K8s operator.

Apart from having a dedicated UI that shows your workflow end-to-end, you can also send a plan for the IaC tool you are using inside a pull request, which can speed up the review process.

In addition, you can easily see and be notified of infrastructure drift, and you have the option to solve it automatically. Spacelift also offers a resource view in which you can see all the resources that have been deployed with your Spacelift account and whether or not they drifted.

Key points

DevOps collaboration is key to your organization’s success. It helps you keep both your infrastructure and application stable while promoting harmony inside your company.

If you want to improve your DevOps collaboration, create a Spacelift account today, or book a demo with one of our engineers.

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