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How to Build a DevOps Championship Winning Team

For over 108-years, the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball were known as the lovable losers. Whether it was the Curse of the Billy Goat, numerous collapses in late season, or Steve Bartman stealing away an out, fans had experienced their fair share agony and defeat. As a fan myself, the phrase “There’s always next year” was something uttered far too often.

The 2016 season was a year unlike any other. The beloved Cubs ran away with the National League Central, made it to the World Series for the first time since 1945, and captured a thrilling 7-game World Series where they nearly lost everything the late innings. With a ground ball to third and a throw to first, over a century of agony, hurt, and heartbreak evaporated in an instant.

I rose from my couch at home as I was watching the game in my Cubs jersey, elated as ever at the outcome. Championships, regardless of the length of time for waiting, are hard to come by. As the players mobbed each other in the middle of the baseball diamond, I began to wonder about the characteristics of championship teams.

Good teams don’t pop up overnight. Much of the Chicago Cubs foundation was put into place over 3 years ago, a product of decision making from general manager Theo Epstein, also known for ending the Boston Red Sox’s Curse of the Bambino. Not only did he make some good trading decisions, but he also benefitted from the timing of several key players who had career years.

There’s a lot of similarity here to technology development and management as the process of creating winning teams has evolved over the years. Long ago, projects were piecemeal and shifted from specialist to specialist until completion, which required an immense amount of time. Updates and patches in similarity, took a long time to materialize, meaning that customers had to wait for their results.

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Over the past few years, this process has shifted. Like the Cubs who last won a championship in what was considered baseball’s dead ball era – a time where singles, doubles, and shutouts were more common – the method of development had to evolve too. As the Cubs acquired more power hitting talent to suit their fans’ interests, many organizations also adapted to modern needs by adopting DevOps, a philosophy emphasizing continuous collaboration, communication, and deployment to match the rising expectations of the modern customer.


When baseball games aren’t being played during the winter months, teams and their fans often engage in “hot stove” chatter, a comparison to a time before central heating where fans would gather around a fire to talk about the prospects of their team for the following year. During these conversations, fans discuss the needs of the team, from the loss of key free agents what holes need to be filled on the offensive and defensive side. As a general rule, many agree that pitching is what ultimately wins championships alongside timely hitting. To that degree, building a championship caliber team is no accident.

Building a DevOps team is no accident either. With the demands of continuous innovation, agility, and customer demands all at stake in this game, organizations have very little room for error. Like a good baseball team, here’s what a DevOps team needs for success (Baseball equivalent in parentheses):

  • Project Manager (Manager/Skipper): In order for the game to flow, a baseball team needs a solid manager. Similarly, a DevOps team also needs to have a solid project manager who understands concepts like Agile. Without the awareness and understanding of where a project is, an organization will experience cost overruns and late releases.
  • Specialists (Coaches): A manager must be able to delegate skills to the hitting and pitching coaches on a team, both of whom know the skills needed to succeed. In a DevOps team, there must be both specialists and generalists who understand the ins and outs of the technology. These individuals are sometimes the core of the business.
  • Good Front Office (Leadership): A good baseball team is not only confined to what happens on the field. In order for a good on-field product to exist, there must be the appropriate leadership to bring those players in. Similarly, a good DevOps team is complemented by a good business, marketing, and sales team that speaks to the customer and understands what is needed for the product to continuously improve.

As I write this blog, I’m looking over at the picture of Wrigley Field on my desk, still in awe of the World Series we just won. Both winning a championship and maintaining organizational success in building innovative technology are difficult, and with a mix of the right individuals and technologies, success is possible. With the IBM stack of DevOps solutions, you too can make it to the top and own your industry’s technology expertise.

Is your organization looking to create a championship caliber team? Reach out to us at and get a conversation started around your DevOps needs.

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Ronda Kiser Oakes

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