Project management & leadership | April 20, 2023

Looking for a Change Catalyst? You Build It You Run It – A 101 for CIOs

If you’ve been around the software development world for a while, you may have heard of the “You Build It, You Run It” model. Initially coined by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, it describes a break from the standard software model of delivery vs. ops and, instead, combines all of the responsibilities for the entire software lifecycle into a single team. 

You build it you run it

Sounds interesting, right? Well, in this article, we’ll explore the You Build It You Run It model in more detail, including how it works and the benefits and drawbacks of the approach. Once we’ve done that, we’ll share 3 questions you can ask yourself to understand if YBIYRI is right for you.

What is the You Build It You Run It Model? 

Put simply, the “You Build It You Run It” model brings two teams into one by combining delivery and operations responsibilities for a software product together into one development team. 

Because one team manages the product through its entire lifecycle, you may also hear this referred to as building ‘long-lived teams.‘ That’s because with YBIYRI, gone are the days of short-term delivery teams, as team members manage everything, including the scoping, DevOps, live traffic, production support, and eventually, the decommissioning of the product.

YBIYRI is an operating model that’s grown since Wener Vogels, CTO of Amazon, developed the concept in 2006. Here are his views on why it’s so effective.

Giving developers operational responsibilities has greatly enhanced the quality of the services, both from a customer and a technology point of view. The traditional model is that you take your software to the wall that separates development and operations, and throw it over and then forget about it. Not at Amazon. You build it, you run it. This brings developers into contact with the day-to-day operation of their software. It also brings them into day-to-day contact with the customer. This customer feedback loop is essential for improving the quality of the service.

This model is especially popular with organizations looking to create new services, manage real-time operations, and drive automation within lean, agile teams. It’s also more engaging for the dev teams themselves as they get to work within cross-functional teams with a variety of specializations. 

The Benefits – Efficiency, Incident Management, and Code Quality

There’s a reason that YBIYRI has grown in popularity across IT departments everywhere, and that’s because it generates tangible value within their organizations. 

Let’s look at three of the key benefits of You Build It You Run It:

  • Efficiency – Rather than delivery and operational teams handing over code, documentation, and knowledge, long-lived teams own and manage the product from start to finish. That makes development, deployment, and service management faster, with synergies between continuous delivery and operations easier to achieve thanks to a fast feedback loop.
  • Incident Management – Because on-call product teams know the system inside out, they can resolve issues faster from initial notification to full incident resolution. This knowledge helps reduce downtime, improve application operability, and build reliability and trust between IT and business operators.
  • Code Quality – By making development teams responsible for the full lifetime of the application, they have skin in the game. This ensures the quality from the product team is top-notch, which improves the chances of delivering what customers want, reduces the number of defects, and helps accelerate and automate processes.

Read also: The Complete Guide to Agile Project Management

The Drawbacks – Cost of Change, Re-Training, and Competing Priorities

But like with all operating models, You Build It You Run It isn’t without its faults – after all, there’s no silver bullet when running a successful IT department. 

If you’re considering YBIYRI, here are some of the drawbacks to consider: 

  • Cost of Change – Like any big organizational change, you need to consider the costs if you want to move from the traditional model to YBIYRI. Not only will you need to make some people changes, but you may also need to make changes to your infrastructure, including decommissioning and decoupling certain applications. Depending on the extent of the change, you may also need to bring in external teams, such as agile coaches or product owners, to guide the transformation.
  • Re-Training – As you transition, developers’ experience will be dominated by re-training, upskilling, and cross-skilling. As teams become responsible for new things, you may need to re-train them in areas such as AWS, cloud infrastructure, a new toolchain, or even new development languages. 
  • Competing Priorities – Long-lived teams must constantly choose between building new features and keeping the lights on. This can cause the pipeline to become delayed, high amounts of rework, or a bottleneck in production as teams get pulled by different priorities.
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3 Questions To Help You Understand If You Build It You Run It Is Right For You

So, now that you know all about YBIYRI and its positive impact on platform engineering and digital services teams everywhere, it’s time to decide if it’s right for you. Trying asking yourself these three questions to help figure that out: 

  1. Do you currently have high incident volumes? Teams that operate YBIYRI often see fewer incidents, as the model helps them detect, resolve, and fix incidents faster by retaining dedicated knowledge in the team.
  2. Do you struggle to deploy working software regularly? If that sounds like you, there’s a chance that your DevOps engineers aren’t following a continuous deployment roadmap. You Build It You Run It can enable that by bringing the entire software environment together in one place. 
  3. Is there a conflict between your delivery and operations team members? This is super common across all IT departments, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With YBIYRI, everyone forms part of one super team that’s packed with autonomy, harmonized working, and full lifecycle responsibility.

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, the YBIYRI model could well be right for you. This is especially true because the model can come in many different shapes and sizes depending on your organization. This could start with a small team of agile practitioners (e.g., a single product team) or scale up to a full, self-service DevOps capability.

Read also:

To Wrap Up…

YBIYRI is fast becoming the guiding philosophy for IT and product teams everywhere. While there’s no single playbook for delivering great software, teams that share the responsibilities for both delivery and operations see benefits such as increased efficiency, improved code quality, and an ability to respond to incidents faster.   

If you want to take your software development capabilities to the next level, you need an IT Services advisor you can trust. At Inetum, our specialized advisory services are personalized to your vision as the CIO, covering everything from digital strategy to operational reality, with experts here to offer guidance every step of the way. 

If it’s time for you to begin your IT transformation journey, take a look at how we add value to our customers by visiting the Inetum website.

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