Understanding WebOps and Its Role in Enhancing Complex Digital ProductsOPERATIONS, BUSINESS.
WebOps — short for web operations — is like the premium gasoline of digital products. When a client upgrades from basic Content Management (CMS) systems to more powerful solutions like a DxP, E-commerce or complex integration you can’t expect the regular practices to work for supporting a more sophisticated platform.
But not every project needs advanced WebOps to run efficiently, just like every car doesn't need premium gas. So how do you know if a WebOps team is right for your clients?
What is WebOps?
WebOps is a set of practices that ensures smooth deployment, monitoring, and overall operation of complex, mission-critical web applications. Everything that keeps digital products running falls under the WebOps umbrella.
You need a team of professionals (usually outsourced to a third party) to carry out WebOps for your digital products — not just one person, and certainly not just automated processes.
A WebOps team is focused exclusively on improving the productivity of the web team as a whole, including developers, designers, content editors, marketers, and more. WebOps maximizes productivity by putting processes and tools in place to support a web application’s ongoing functionality. This frees others from the fear (and interruption) of a crashing app or platform.
In practice, a WebOps team can oversee:
Ongoing maintenance and improvement
Custom development and implementation
Agile software delivery
Insightful reporting on all WebOps
Understanding WebOps Choices — From Web Hosting to White Glove
WebOps for complex web applications is not the same thing as web hosting — and this distinction is crucial. There are some WebOps-like functions implicit any time you’re hosting a website or an application. But, unless there’s a hands-on team managing those functions, it’s mere automated web hosting.
Put simply, web hosting is a passive approach to web operations while WebOps is inherently active.
There are other levels or grades of WebOps, too. Web hosting is the lowest, or least involved, grade. Some in the industry refer to this operations option as the ‘lights on’ approach because that’s all web hosting concerns itself with — the lights are on, the application is running.
The grade above ‘lights on’ adds testing to its roster of WebOps activities. This means checking to see if an aspect of the application works and setting up effective testing environments. Yet another level up includes creating useful developing environments. And finally, a more advanced WebOps team also deploys or puts new code into production.
The Powerful Capabilities of White Glove WebOps
This final level, the option that includes deployment, is what your most technical enterprise-grade clients — the BMWs — will require. You might call it white glove WebOps.
White glove WebOps enables:
Fast new developer onboarding
Efficient and effective development and testing environments
Exceptional quality assurance programs
This type of high-level WebOps gives you and your clients a superpower — stable code and the ability to develop aggressively. And that’s where we’re focusing our attention.
4 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your WebOps
Like we’ve said from the beginning, not every web application requires white glove WebOps to run well. An old-school CMS-hosted product can probably get by with the ‘lights on’ tactic. That said, if you’re in the long game with your clients and you expect their technology to continue to mature, you will reach a point when your operations practices lag behind that tech.
Here are four situations that may indicate it's time to upgrade your WebOps.
1. Slow Code Deployment is Impeding Efficiency
“We don’t deploy on Fridays.” How many times have you heard this common industry sentiment? Avoiding Friday code deployments is a traditional strategy for maintaining web application stability.
In these cases, IT managers serve as gatekeepers, aggregating code changes and holding off on pushing them out until a bi-weekly or monthly deployment date. This is where the Friday part comes into play: They’d never ship code on a Friday for fear something would go terribly wrong over the weekend. Mondays are much better because there’s a whole work week to fix any messes post-launch.
In reality, this setup is an indication of lower-end WebOps. If you feel strongly that your clients are suffering from slow deployment, they could benefit from better operations practices.
It’s not app sophistication or developer seniority that speeds up deployments. It’s a foundation of solid WebOps and tools.
An expert WebOps team has such advanced tools and practices in place that any developer can step in and deploy code almost instantly, and iteratively after that. There’s no need for him to shadow a senior developer for three months before he can do it on his own. And no one has to fear Friday deployment.
2. Developers Can’t (or Won’t) Complete WebOps Activities
Development teams aren’t necessarily interested in or good at WebOps. They may not want to deal with what they see as monotonous day-to-day tasks.
WebOps team responsibilities are actually an art in and of themselves. On call rotation, incident response, monitoring — if your developers resist these roles, it may be time to bring in experts rather than let WebOps slide.
3. Clients with Complex Systems Fear Dramatic Failure
We’ve already mentioned that white glove WebOps are for complex applications. To be more explicit, if your clients have already moved to DxPs, or even other enterprise-grade digital products, robust WebOps is right around the corner.
A digital experience platform is a selection of technologies that speak to each other and integrate on one platform. It’s a step up from a CMS.
Once you’re dealing in DxPs, your site is mission-critical. Because so many technologies integrate into DxPs, you can’t risk one piece going down without a backup plan in place. At the same time, dramatic failure is more likely than ever because it's such a complex platform with so many moving parts.
WebOps mitigate this type of complex systems failure by preparing for it through simulation. A white glove WebOps team might also conduct:
Robust WebOps gives your clients peace of mind that you’re building resiliency into their systems and preparing for a worst-case scenario. A WebOps team can also learn from simulated failure post-mortem and manage live incidents that inevitably pop up.
4. Occasional Uptime Monitoring Isn’t Enough
Monitoring is another leveled facet of WebOps. Some clients might be okay with an “I’ll call you if something seems wrong” approach. But again, as you’re dealing in increasingly complex digital environments, monitoring will need to improve as well.
WebOps can be as sophisticated as automated monitoring to test an application every minute for uptime (is it running?) as well as key transactions and user interactions. It’s a matter of what your clients’ technologies demand now, and what’s coming down the pike.
Putting It All Together
WebOps is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why there are varying levels and activities involved depending on your clients’ needs. Some might be okay with light incidence reporting while others require a 24/7 expert task force — basically, the two extremes.
Eventually, nearly all digital products will evolve and mature out of lower-level WebOps practices. In the meantime, stay in the know about your powerful WebOps choices.