How to use a hybrid DevOps approach in project management

Learn how to use a mix of traditional project management methods such as task handoffs in a collaborative DevOps environment.

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In IT project management, handoffs occur when specific project tasks are transferred to other project members or departments for the next phases of work. Handoffs from individual to individual, or function to function, are still heavily used in sequential and linear waterfall projects because, they not only provide tracking on when a given project or task moves to another person or area, they also peg each task to an individual or function so there is accountability.

Task traceability and accountability help project managers and staff stay on task and create granular visibility into the status of a project.

DevOps projects provide a counterpoint to this traditional waterfall and highly linear concept of IT project management and to the handoff. In DevOps projects, accountability is not necessarily tracked to an individual, or even to a specific department as tasks are moved around or handed off. This can complicate a project manager's ability to understand the project's progress.

SEE: Implementing DevOps: A guide for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

If you're an IT project manager and you want to make the transition from waterfall project management to DevOps as an application development concept, what do you choose to keep and what do you throw away?

I am going to argue for the collaboration and team effort that DevOps provides, but not at the expense of eliminating the traditional project handoff altogether.

With this hybrid concept of DevOps and the handoff, you get a blend of several of the best elements of DevOps and traditional IT project management. You get a collaborative team effort with the accountabilities that can be tied to specific individuals or departments, ensuring that projects are moving forward toward the targeted business goals.

Here's how the hybrid DevOps-traditional project management approach works.

  • If you're just starting out with implementing DevOps, craft a small project that delivers business value you can readily show to the company to build support for DevOps projects and how they work.
  • Begin DevOps collaborations between IT and your most system-savvy and IT-friendly user departments because DevOps needs strong user-IT working relationships to succeed.
  • Assign one project manager to each DevOps project, even though the project might be co-sponsored between IT and an end-user department, so project members aren't confused about who they are reporting to.
  • Use project tracking software to identify who is doing what and so everyone who is tasked with DevOps work can update independently to ensure that project status on every task is always current.
  • Organize DevOps cross-functional teams to collaborate through requirements definition, system builds, QA, and deployment, understanding that DevOps projects can continuously change throughout these phases. You should also maintain individual and/or specific sub-group task accountabilities and track task handoffs.
  • Designate an endpoint for the project. The beauty of DevOps is that a project is flexible and can incorporate many creative ideas as it is being built, but at some point there has to be a deliverable that gets installed for the business. This is the ultimate handoff—from development to production.

You want to see a project evolve to a point where it can be effectively deployed in production. The overseeing project manager needs visibility of all project tasks and know who is responsible for each task to assess project completeness and readiness. By combining the best of DevOps with time-proven accountability methods like project task handoffs, DevOps managers can get the best of both worlds.

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By Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...