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Lean & DevOps: Definitions & Mutual Influence

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Lean & DevOps: Definitions & Mutual Influence

Lean & DevOps: Definitions & Mutual Influence
date_range - 1 year ago

Nowadays organizations have to have an implemented methodology for their software development lifecycle to keep up with the challenges of the modern world.

Expectations and demands are high - customers want more advanced solutions, and they want them as soon as possible. And without a proper workflow organizations risk becoming slow, inefficient, and ultimately unsustainable.

That’s why a practice like DevOps has taken the IT sector by storm. It is a workflow philosophy that is proven to give results. The other two popular methodologies are lean and agile. And while some theorists and purists may argue endlessly about the differences between the three, in practice they are very similar - because they address the same problems. Today we’ll give an explanation of the correlation between lean and DevOps.


Lean is an interesting concept because it originally had nothing to do with coding, nor is it a new philosophy. Actually, lean has its roots in the automobile industry, at the start of the 20th century with Ford’s Model T. It allowed for the model to be built quickly and efficiently.

But lean development reached its prime a few decades later with Toyota Production System. They wanted to upgrade the systems Ford implemented, and offer continuous improvement of their products. Among other things, they combined sequencing, quick setups, and self-monitoring to reach their goals. They eliminated waste (unneeded time and resources) while still keeping customers happy.

This approach found its way to the IT industry in the early 2000s. IT allowed for more frequent product releases by shortening the development lifecycle. That way organizations could keep pace with the rapidly changing business world. There are several crucial lean principles that helped with that. First and foremost was understanding the customer value, so they could always have it in mind and try to improve upon it.

After the value has been defined, it is important to reach it with as few resources as possible - once again: by eliminating waste. Waste in this context can be defined as everything that doesn’t add to the value. For example, unoptimized business processes, bureaucracy, slow communication, delays, outdated practices, unneeded code, etc.

Other lean principles are: to amplify the learning of all team members and to empower them so they can make decisions on their own, without relying on the organization’s bureaucratic structure. Furthermore, they should be able to see and understand the big picture of the solution. Also, the lean mindset understands that the teams should make decisions as late as possible (when they have all the necessary information) while also releasing software as often as they can.


DevOps was born out of a need for an even faster software development lifecycle. Its primary goal is to break the barriers between developers and operators so they can build a more collaborative approach. DevOps is more of an organizational philosophy than a set-in-stone methodology. When done right, it encompasses not only the organization's workflow but its culture as well.

It is the logical evolution of lean and agile frameworks, empowering teams and giving them the tools for constant improvement. The main phases of the DevOps life cycle are:

  • Continuous development
  • Continuous integration
  • Continuous testing
  • Continuous deployment
  • Continuous monitoring

Also, the teams are in a state of continuous communication. And such continuous workflow helps organizations deploy solutions more frequently and effectively.

Lean & DevOps

As mentioned before, lean and DevOps were developed as answers to the same problem of shortening the development lifecycle without jeopardizing the quality. They are both about building quality while removing difficulties that stand in the way. Therefore, they are not really dissimilar. DevOps can even be defined as a version of lean that puts the emphasis on development and operations collaboration.

What DevOps methodology can strive for is being even leaner. The lean principle of eliminating waste should not be forgotten. Organizations should treat DevOps as a tool that will make them more efficient, not as something that will bog them down. In case barriers in the workflow do show up, they should be treated as waste and eliminated as soon as possible. The process should be streamlined and teams should operate smoothly.

Also, the goal of lean, which is maximizing customer value should not be forgotten. Without that centerpiece, the whole workflow is basically meaningless.


The lean approach was first developed in the automobile industry. Its main purpose was to eliminate waste while still maintaining customer satisfaction. It proved to be a success for both Ford and Toyota, and it soon found itself a workflow approach in the IT industry as well.

With time, lean evolved to DevOps which broke the barriers between developers and operators and brought even faster deployment lifecycles. Organizations that have a DevOps methodology should keep in mind the original lean principles. That way they will experience long-term stability, agility, efficiency, and profitability.

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