DevOps is changing the services industry, especially in the people model. Here’s an important question for service providers in the Digital Age: Can you achieve the same impact in a distributed DevOps environment as you can in a collocated DevOps environment? Clearly, because of where the industry makes money, the industry would like the answer to be distributed. It’s a well-known fact that industry profit margins are much higher when services are delivered out of low-cost locations. But let’s look at this issue more closely.
The focus of DevOps is aligning services with the business and achieving speed (that is, agility and continuous improvement). This suggests that the most effective way to do DevOps is to collocate a provider’s engineers with the business or in close proximity to the business. In the distributed model, providers typically get around this by having a portion of the engineers (the product manager) sit with the business and the engineers sit offshore.
Yet, as we look at the early and best use cases – for example, Microsoft Azure – we find that companies prefer to collocate the product manager and the engineers in the same small team. The collocated model stresses the need for speed as the core of the move to DevOps. There is no doubt companies can reduce costs by moving people offshore; but do they give speed and business alignment when they do that?
When the product manager is a customer or is believed by the customer to be essential to the customer’s knowledge, that makes the practicality of the offshore model more difficult. In many cases, some companies will choose not to take the work offshore. All this portends to significant changes in how customers and providers define and manage their talent model in a DevOps environment.
Having said that, there simply isn’t enough talent in North America and Europe to move all the application development people on shore. So customers and providers will need to come to some accommodation. It’s clear that the services industry will need to break up work differently including customers having more responsibility and accountability offshore than historically.