Building Partnerships into a DevOps Platform
Building a software platform in isolation is a non-starter in today’s world of continuous improvement, testing and delivery. Building a platform, especially for developers, means creating one link in a larger pipeline. Continuous delivery tools are useless if they can’t integrate with repositories and cloud environments. Monitoring tools that only work on a subset of your infrastructure won’t be broadly adopted. Even the most robust feature set or the most elegant user interface won’t matter if there isn’t a frictionless connection to the other tools a development team uses.
Collaboration with industry partners is a critical step in the development lifecycle — equal in importance to analysis and design — but is sometimes under-planned and under-funded. Without industry partnerships, both at the technical and business level, the platform will never get off the ground.
It’s time we make the case, then, for why software teams need to make partnerships a key step in their product development cycle.
The DevOps Toolchain
If you’re building for developers, Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) or anyone in the application lifecycle, you’re part of a toolchain. Being a part of a toolchain means you’re part of a broad ecosystem, where you have a responsibility to your end users beyond just your product. There are two major components to this responsibility:
- You have to ensure you are building a product that fits seamlessly into your users’ existing workstreams and tools.
- You have to ensure that you’re collaborating with other vendors in the ecosystem to provide value and avoid breaking things — theirs, yours, or the customers.
Integration-First Means API First
Let’s take that first principle. Fitting seamlessly starts with making sure that your product is built to integrate. You can deliver services faster and increase value, with attention to how you consume assets and reuse artifacts. That’s where an API strategy comes in.
The first step is building your API. Focus on how to make integration easy, to make it simpler to reuse and consume assets instead of building services from scratch. This gives you back more time to focus on the value you can deliver to the toolchain. You’ve likely already invested in several tools and infrastructure to get your operation up and running, so it’s imperative that you get additional value from product integrations. APIs help you do that. You can scale by building monitoring and automated reporting tools based on APIs. Reusing APIs can also free up scarce resources and allow more consistency and innovation. Plan to integrate APIs both internally within your organization and externally with partners.
Strategic Software Partnerships
Your partnership strategy needs to be holistic — both on the technical integration and go-to-market partnerships. Naturally, you can start with product integration, but it’s not enough. If you don’t invest equally in the business development opportunities, you’ll lose out in the long term. The value is scale. Even the largest enterprise software organizations have resource constraints and alliance priorities. Partners help every business extend their capabilities — providing expertise, relationships, engineering know-how, and sales or marketing reach you might not have today. They bridge gaps across security, issue detection, reporting, compliance and cost management, to deliver on the promise of continuous testing and reliability for end users.
Too often, building an application in isolation means that individual organizations determine the type of testing that is done without taking partners into consideration. Collaboration needs to be end-to-end. Integration partners must communicate roadmap changes, so they can plan feature rollouts and set expectations for testing future releases. This process is critical, because (by design) integration testing will help shake out errors and evaluate the behavior and performance of the platform. More importantly, integrated testing provides confidence to partners on delivery; and in turn, provides consistency and cohesion in the communication of updates to end users.
After all, technical partnerships and product integration are wasted if the partnership stops at testing. Part of our responsibility to our customers is to work with our partners — with the companies that make the other tools our customers use — to deliver education and awareness. If a customer isn’t taking full advantage of the integrations you’ve built, then the value you’ve invested in building is for naught. Business development and marketing alliance managers need to conceive joint go-to-market campaigns that explain the joint value proposition. Look for intersection points in the business challenges and how customers can expeditiously overcome issues with advanced automation in every part of the software lifecycle.