DevOps - What is it? What is it not?


Published 7  February 2020

If you ask 100 different people working in technology or engineering roles to define DevOps, you will probably get 100 different answers. DevOps is not just about the technology, or the “pipeline” to get software to production; it depends on the communication and collaboration of everyone involved in delivering functionality to the customer or end user.



Felim O’ Donnell
COO International
Starling Bank

I like to think of DevOps as an evolution of Lean and Agile development theories. In effect, it is all about flow – the ability to deliver a software change from idea to end user as seamlessly and as frequently as possible. The advances in Cloud technologies and capabilities have made it possible to extend the flow to include infrastructure and IT operations.

Why is DevOps so difficult for large (Enterprise) organizations?

The most important criteria for successful DevOps practices in any organization involve the culture and way of working being right.

I spent my early career as an IT professional and Project Manager seeking to become an expert in the Software Delivery Lifecycle (SDLC), the waterfall approach to Software Delivery. I even got my Prince II qualifications. As a developer and subsequently as an IT project manager, I made the Business Owner sign for a set of requirements and that was what I delivered (typically more than 12 months later on larger projects). It didn’t matter whether that was what the Business Owner actually wanted by the time I delivered, I had done my job and I had the documented business requirements to prove it. That was how I was taught to do it – I was taught to follow a process within a system; I wasn’t taught to question the process.

For large organizations, shifting to a different way of working is difficult. If you have a system that relies on people understanding a process, it is extremely challenging to introduce a continuous learning culture.

DevOps and Agile Development

The speed, flexibility and collaboration that comes with successfully implementing DevOps practices allows a company to test and learn. The organization has the capability to listen to customer or end-user feedback and to adapt and incorporate that feedback into their product or service offering. Most success stories about Agile development come from startups or small companies where everyone, regardless of their role in the organization, understands the company goals and understands how customers interact with their product or service.

How does this relate to Open Banking?

Open Banking started with UK banks but is now a term that relates to the PSD2 legislation, obliging banks to share your account data – with your permission. This effectively means that other companies, who are adept at Agile development, can build products and services to provide added value to customers. Innovation doesn’t have to come from the large enterprise organizations any more. Start-up companies with the right learning and listening cultures now have the ability to build solutions on top of an Open Banking infrastructure in order to entice would-be customers.

At Starling, we are seeing innovative companies like Raisin use our Banking as a Service offering to be able to offer customers the best deposit products for them. We are also seeing more companies join our Marketplace, taking advantage of our open APIs to integrate services like insurance products and accounting packages with our customers’ current accounts.

The truth is that the innovation has only just begun and the good news is that customers don’t have to rely on established banks for that innovation.