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Restarting a Stalled Technology Modernization with DevOps

Author: George Burns Co-author: Kevin McMahon Posted In: Cloud, DevOps

For IT leaders, this season of unexpected disruptions has caused many to rethink their approach to cloud deployments or their plans to modernize their applications. Many businesses have shifted their tech initiatives in response to the 2020 pandemicMore than half of IT leaders we recently surveyed said they've cancelled or delayed an on-prem migration to the cloud, and 1 in 4 have stalled plans to make changes in their existing cloud. 

The year's top canceled or delayed cloud-related initiatives include: (1) migration from on-prem to cloud, (2) changing cloud deployment models, or (3) adapting their IT operations to meet cloud best practices. One of the most critical lessons of disruptions like the pandemic is that multi-year engagement plans are obsolete and cannot continue to be the default. For technology leaders to respond successfully to unexpected shifts, their plans need to follow shorter, more iterative timelines that better reflect business realities going forward.  

Top 3 Cloud-Related Initiatives Canceled or Delayed by Organizations Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
Identified by Decision-Makers

To avoid risks of tech debt, businesses can modernize using DevOps approach  

Delays that happen in response to disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic often have lingering impact. Likely, these delays mean a significant number of organizations will carry tech debt for quite some time after the pandemic — unless they retool. Tech debt, simply put, is the risk of future technology burdens — like high costs or critical performance issues — that a company incurs because their current technology is a short-term solution that doesn't fit their ongoing needs. Tech debt is particularly dangerous now as teams try to make large, complex plans work for today, but find their deployments need refactoring later. The ensuing backlog of bugs and complications puts organizations in a game of cat-and-mouse trying to fix these errors. Multi-year IT engagements should be abandoned in favor of shorter, more agile and significantly less expensive DevOps approaches that avoid tech debt. Click To Tweet 

Some examples of how tech debt can pile up and cause extended problems for your organization include:  

  • Bloated costs: Maintenance and fixes to systems that were rushed are expensive. Many businesses are having a difficult enough time predicting their financial futures as it is — they don’t need to be planning costly changes and retooling.  
  • Loss of market share: Playing catch up on technology gives competitors the edge. By the time you’ve realized your original five-year plan, the competition may already be significantly ahead.  
  • Talent drain: Frontline IT workers may become frustrated operating on a deployment plan that is insufficiently funded or not designed or implemented properly.  

How SPR uses DevOps to guide companies' app modernizations and cloud migrations 

Whether companies need to modernize apps or update their infrastructure to take advantage of the cloud, SPR has seen success when businesses use DevOps to start or accelerate their initiatives. 


Prioritizing the wish list: tackling tech improvements amid peak season timelines 

major apparel manufacturer and retailer wanted to migrate to the cloudquickly. With limited in-house technologists available to tackle the high-priority work, the company needed help from experts at SPR. Our team helped the company establish the right plan to modernize their infrastructure, knowing they wanted to rapidly implement a comprehensive solution before the business faced its peak buying season. 

DevOps methodologies are a go-to for software development initiatives but SPR showed here that companies can start to see all tech projects as being best tackled with a DevOps approach – infrastructure projects included.

DevOps methodologies are a go-to for software development initiatives but SPR showed here that companies can start to see all tech projects as being best tackled with a DevOps approach — infrastructure projects included.  

In this situation, the client wanted a ready-to-go overhaul of their network. To meet their needs, we recommended a solution that used Direct Connect Circuitsconnecting the company's on-prem network to their cloud provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS), directly without using the public internet. Part of getting this initiative done quickly meant focusing on high value, critical items first. 

SPR helped the business to prioritize by guiding the team to identify all tasks that needed to be completed. We wrapped those tasks up into user stories (how will this impact users) and features (an overarching goal).  

Once we identified this list, we divided the project up into three manageable phases: 

  • Phase 1 (what the business really needs nowaddressing everything critical for entering into their buyers' peak season.  
  • Phase 2 (remediate the current environment) fixing problems that exist from yesterday 
  • Phase 3 - add new features 

The user stories and tasks also helped the company to align internally to meet the aggressive deadlines presented by their peak season constraints. For example, one user story involved setting up hardware, but a particular vendor's warehouses/supply chain options were backed up because of pandemic

The business used this consideration to realign their existing internal resources and redirect hardware from lower-priority projects to this higher-priority, time-sensitive initiative. This plan and approach provided tangible ways for the efforts to stay on track for the critical timelines in the first phase. 

This client engagement showcases how DevOps can be your ally against tech debt, allowing you to plan your best moves first, and delay only the less-critical tasks that can wait for secondary phases. Structuring projects with shorter and easier deployments can help you modernize critical technology needs in an agile way rather than undertaking a larger overhaul. Beyond prioritizing what to do first, DevOps can also help clients avoid delays by modernizing on a more efficient cadence.



Modernizing an application faster with DevOps: expanding analytics capabilities and using serverless functions to reduce costs  

professional services firm specializing in highly regulated sectors wanted to transform an existing app and implement a data warehousing strategy so that the analytics tools could use data created and compiled by the system. This would better serve their business by providing a modern, integrated approach to the way applications were used, along with associated data insights, that meet current needs of users. 

SPR's cloud technology experts guided this effort through application decoupling: taking an app, breaking it up into logical pieces, and aligning those pieces into Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings offered by their cloud provider. Here, we helped our client move away from monolithic applications to decoupled architectures. To take advantage of the granular PaaS resource pricing model, whelped the client migrate from on-prem servers to managed, serverless SQL instances. This engagement’s approach: 

  • Helped the business avoid the "always on" costs of consuming cloud resources, paying only for the resources that needed to be executed 
  • Enabled our client's operations team to more easily maintain the environment using a visual, "no code" development architecture.  This meant they didn't need coding skills, only the ability to read and follow a logical flow. 
  • Aligned to an agile two-week sprint model — focused on consumable pieces of work -rather than multi-year projects. 
  • Allowed the DevOps team, using the sprint model, to have granular deliverables (smallest consumable component, like "create a new user") that the business can track progress on a daily basis. This helps companies track progress toward improvement, tracking burndownhow quickly you're completing tasks — regularly and with accuracy, to help the business and DevOps team identify and remove blockers. 

As companies grapple with re-energizing delayed projects in the coming year, these two success stories show how embracing DevOps methodologies can help kick start your initiatives. A DevOps approach helped our clients address their time-sensitive cloud infrastructure projects in new ways or establish a manageable development cadence by segmenting efforts for their complex application modernization projects into easy-to-tackle steps. 

A person sitting on a rock with a laptop.
A woman sitting in front of a computer screen.


Lessons learned: how DevOps approach can work for your business 

Whether you facsimilar delays or disruptions shaped by peak season timelines or priorities shifting due to the pandemic, your cloud modernizations can benefit from applying these DevOps strategies:  

  • Consider 90-day engagement plans: Think about breaking up larger engagements into more manageable pieces. Smaller engagements, like proof-of-concept (PoC) projects can help test theories or functionality. Use these engagements to tackle easily-resolved issues and address roadblocks that are hindering your organization’s overall cloud strategy from moving forward. 
  • Keep core principles in mind: Proceeding with shorter projects means resetting expectations and workflows. To do this, keep some basics of DevOps top of mind. Expect more deployments and remember the process is iterative. Eliminating external dependencies, having strong version controls and keeping well-defined GIT branching models will help establish the right expectations and processes.
  • Work in a sandbox: Smaller deployments can mean more experimentation. Get IT teams working in a sandbox environment focused on finding small challenges and solving them. For organizations unsure of what the future holds, this strategy is optimal. Smaller consumption points in projects means lower price points for cloud use in that engagement. This is also a great strategy for organizations to pursue if budget has been reduced. Build now for what you know is broken, and you’ll likely reduce the costs of larger deployments in the future.  


In the post-pandemic environment, enterprises need to become more comfortable with these shorter-term, more frequently deployed cloud applications. Based on this data, the traditional model of long, drawn-out cloud engagements has been so pervasive, a significant number of organizations will be carrying tech debt into the future if they stay the course.  

IT leaders need to take a page from other areas of business and pivot. They'll discover the solution to their recovery by implementing a DevOps approach to all IT projects 

Want to learn more about how you can improve your business with DevOps model? Contact one of our experts or read more of our related content on how to implement a cloud-based data platform, or 7 DevOps patterns to meet today's challenges.