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How Modern Mid-Size Businesses Leverage Azure DevOps

Modern Mid-size businesses are normally in a transition phase to become large businesses like Apple or Meta Platforms. All they need is to boost their operations by introducing automation and consistency through Azure DevOps techniques. As an IT manager, automation of tedious tasks like sending your code to a separate QA team might feel daunting. With Azure DevOps, you can set up pipelines to continuously test your code to find bugs that your team can resolve. 

Your IT team can greatly benefit from the DevOps culture after they familiarise themselves with the agile approach that creates a bridge to access traditional isolated roles between team members and establish better processes to facilitate collaboration. New tools and agile engineering practices coupled with the right mindset, are just the thing you need to give your business a boost. 

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Understanding Azure DevOps and How It Works

Microsoft Azure DevOps is a combination of development and operations that operate as a compound of people, processes, and technology to allow businesses to provide continuous value to their customers. With DevOps, organisations take advantage of previously isolated roles like development, IT operations, quality engineering, or security by coordinating and collaborating with other members. 

If you adopt DevOps for your organisation, your teams will gain abilities to handle your customer’s needs better and gain more confidence with the applications you build to achieve your goals. 

Here are some various DevOps tools that you can use to enhance your existing business workflow: 

  1. Azure Pipelines
    You can create, test, and deploy your applications with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery. Azure Pipelines is compatible with every language, platform or cloud. 
  2. Azure Test Plans
    Manual and exploratory tools that provide organisations with testing and shipment of your digital solutions. 
  3. Azure Artifacts
    You can create, share and host your application packages with your project team and assign the addition of artefacts to the CI/CD pipelines. 
  4. Azure Repos
    Cloud-based private  Git repos provide better collaboration when it comes to developing codes with numerous pull requests and enhanced file management. 
  5. Azure Boards
    Agile tools that enhance your ability to plan, track and discuss work across your teams. 

Why Modern Mid-Size Businesses Should Consider Azure DevOps

Mid-size businesses need to consider Microsoft Azure DevOps due to its capability of prioritising collaboration in the areas of development and operations by increased usage of agile business strategies. Your organisation will enjoy the following benefits after successful implementation. Microsoft has created Azure as a unique solution towards security, compliance, and privacy and is now leading the industry by consistently meeting the requirements of regular Azure users. Here’s are some reasons why your mid-size business needs DevOps:

  1. Collaboration
    At its heart, collaboration is everything as it will allow you to host and manage your entire code snippet with every member of your IT team. DevOps will act as a central location for code management, as the codes are usually a collection of PowerShell and VB Scripts that are used to manage various servers. When it comes to code management, code versioning is also an important dimension and you can opt to use TFVC or Git. 
  2. Work items
    Even if your organisation is not using any code, you can use DevOps to manage and coordinate your Work Item systems, which are represented as a Server or System bug. It’s a risk, but you can create a process template to solve them. Agile Framework or Capability Maturity Model Integration allows your departments to run smoothly as teams can divide complex systems into manageable workloads. 
  3. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery
    Azure cloud can provide a robust platform to your organisation, where your team can deploy solutions in a pipeline that allows CI/CD. The configuration management console allows your team to manage the state of resources in your system, such as servers, virtual machines, and databases. Your teams can also roll out changes in a controlled yet systematic way to reduce the risks of modifying your system configuration. 

Different Applications in Small, Medium, and Large Businesses

The size of your organisation deeply affects your need for DevOps. Let’s look at how it is in these three business sizes: 

Small Businesses

For small organisations, management and engineering lines of responsibilities can blur to create a naturally lean environment. Since resources are scarce, the engineering team typically deals with the technicalities of the organisation and create cross-functional teams to be held accountable for their solutions. The management of small organisations is usually inclined towards introducing new products and processes in their organisation due to an abundance of passion for growth and creativity. 

The growth mindset makes small organisations the ideal users of Azure DevOps services. At the same time, small organisations have lean management and engineering structure. A clear vision is important to empower engineering and make them accountable for respecting their right to autonomy. 

Mid-size Businesses

The increase in resources and budgets often induce politics, policies, and technical governance into mid-size businesses. They also have a focused IT operations team as well as 2 or 3 engineering teams that handle the workload. Isolated environments are also introduced in the organisation where the development team builds applications, while the IT operations team supports the infrastructure and solutions through containers deployed via Kubernetes

To evolve into a large organisation, it’s important that mid-size businesses focus on breaking down isolated environments, create a common language, and establish technical governance to unite their business, development, operations, and engineering departments. 

Large organisations 

Diversity, experience, and ability allows large organisations to divide their operations and development teams into various smaller teams with focused interests. These teams naturally embrace agile and DevOps practices that are supported through a unified vision on the enterprise level including a transformation strategy. 

However, some large organisations also feel like mid-sized businesses with isolated leadership, business, development, and operations teams. Even when the teams are bigger and more segregated, they face challenges such as encouraging the entire organisation to consider DevOps and take advantage of practices that increase efficiencies. 

Azure DevOps Best Practices for Mid-Sized Businesses

Let’s go over some best practices for mid-sized businesses who want to implement Azure DevOps:

Using Agile Project Management

Agile serves as an iterative approach towards project management as well as software development as it helps your team to deliver value to your customers immediately with minimal errors. The focus of agile teams is to deliver work in small portions, instead of single massive releases. Here are some key concepts: 

  • Projects should be started with a workflow that includes 4 phases
    • To do
    • In progress 
    • Code review 
    • Done
  • Teams are required to break down large-scale projects into small tasks and respond to changes as they make progress

Shifting Left with CI/CD

Azure DevOps allows teams to “shift left” by initialising the testing phases early in the development processes. A variety of tests are performed throughout the coding process that allows the developers to detect and fix bugs or improve their code during the coding process. This practice saves time as the need to send versions of the source code to a separate QA team is removed. 

Implementing Automation 

Developers can regularly merge their code into the main repository through continuous integration and delivery. CI/CD practices remove the need for checking code manually and automate the process by turning codes into batches and conducting end-to-end, unit, integration, and performance tests. 

Monitoring Pipelines and Applications

Teams need to monitor pipelines as a broken build or failed test does not lead to unnecessary delays. Automation does indeed tremendously improve the speed of development but if any failure occurs and no one knows about it, then automation is no good to anyone. Therefore, it’s important to check up on Azure pipelines and immediately resolve any automation issues that occur. 

Gathering Continuous Feedback

It’s equally important to ensure that team members receive all of the necessary information regarding their daily jobs. While thinking from the development perspective, this means that the team is aware of the status of the pipelines. Therefore, the pipeline should send an alert whenever there is a failure and make the results available to developers as soon as possible. 

The pipeline should also inform the project management team regarding any production failures, reported bugs or performance deficiencies. Previously, organisations believed that Azure DevOps only provided benefit to the development team by optimising speed or quality, but with continuous feedback, all departments can take benefit from DevOps practices. 

Taking Advantage Of Version Control 

DevOps also has a feature of version control, which allows teams to manage their code versions and track revisions or change history to make it easy to review or recover codes. Version control systems like Git allow multiple developers to collaborate while writing, and these systems provide a clear process to merge code changes that occur within the same files, handle conflicts, and roll back changes to earlier states. 

Azure DevOps Tools For Mid-Size Businesses

Here are some recommendations for DevOps tools that mid-size businesses can use to assist their IT teams: 

  1. GitHub
    Used to increase collaboration among teams, automate your code-to-cloud workflows, and secure your code with advanced capabilities. 
  2. Azure Pipelines
    Used to implement CI/CD for continuous building, testing, and deploying applications to any platform or cloud. 
  3. Azure Boards
    Used for planning, tracking, discussing work across all development or operational teams using Kanban boards, team dashboards, and custom reporting. 
  4. Azure Monitor
    Used to observe applications, infrastructure, and network of your organisation. 
  5. Visual Studio
    Used as an Integrated Development Environment to create powerful and scalable applications for Azure. 
  6. Azure Kubernetes Service
    Used for shipping containerised applications and operating them with ease through a fully-managed Kubernetes service. 

Azure DevOps and the Application Lifecycle

DevOps can influence your application lifecycle greatly through its planning, developing, delivering, and operating phases. These phases are interdependent without being role-specific. Let’s go over these phases in detail:

  1. Planning
    In the planning phase, your IT team will define and describe the features as well as capabilities of the application or system they are working on. They will also be able to track their progress from single portfolio tasks to entire portfolios. 
  2. Developing
    In the developing phase, all aspects of coding like writing, testing, reviewing, and integrating code will be included. DevOps will allow your team to conduct rapid innovation without the need to sacrifice quality, stability or productivity. 
  3. Delivering
    All processes of deploying applications into production environments consistently and reliably are included in the delivering phase. Moreover, this phase also includes the deployment and configuration of fully governed infrastructures. 
  4. Operating
    The last phase includes all steps to maintain, monitor and troubleshoot applications that are currently in production. Your IT team will work to ensure your systems are reliable and available with zero downtime as they reinforce security and governance. 

Tips & Advice For Mid-Size Businesses 

Every organisation that adopts Azure DevOps has their own policies, definition, and implementation method. Here are a few pieces of advice that will help your organisation to fine-tune your approach towards DevOps:

  1. Opt for shorter release cycles to introduce speed through technological, cultural and operational changes from DevOps. Short releases ensure that all new features are tested and validated immediately. 
  2. You should take advantage of continuous improvement in every stage of your product lifecycle. Your teams can reduce waste and focus on improvements that ultimately deliver better quality software at a faster pace. 
  3. Having balanced automation is important as tasks that require manual intervention can bottleneck the continuous process flow within a pipeline. Automating tasks like data collection, code testing or communicating updates can allow your team to work with speed, consistency and reliability. 

Conclusion

Azure DevOps can play an important role in giving you an edge over your competitors and ensuring your steady transition to a large business over time. If you incorporate these practices into your organisation with the right mindset, you can develop and ship quality business solutions in large quantities as a unique selling point. 

Our Azure Specialists can assist with all of your assessment, planning, migration, and deployment needs to maintain your competitive edge.

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