A guide to DevOps project management: Essential tools and best practices

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"Being a project manager is like being an artist: You have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art.” Greg Cimmarrusti, Project Manager

This quote rings true for most project managers, but especially for DevOps project managers.

DevOps project management allows agencies to take an agile approach to software development where continuous improvement is the primary goal. 

It’s also a model that can ask a lot of project managers, requiring them to manage multiple teams and master new disciplines. In other words, it’s a model that includes a lot of different colors that have to be blended together into something beautiful! 

To help your agency make the most of the DevOps model, let’s define DevOps project management, give some of the best practices and essential skills needed to be an effective DevOps project manager, and look at some of the top DevOps tools project managers and their entire team can use.

What is DevOps project management?

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DevOps project management combines the principles of project management with the principles of DevOps. 

One defining characteristic of DevOps project management is it integrates the efforts of operations and development teams. This allows both teams to work closely together throughout the software development lifecycle.

In DevOps project management, project managers often have a lot of hats to wear. DevOps project management requires project managers to serve as coordinators between many teams and contributors. It also requires them to embrace and master other DevOps principles, like agile project management practices, and keep track of timelines and dependencies across teams.

When properly executed, DevOps project management can offer plenty of benefits, including breaking down silos between teams and team members, implementing faster software delivery, and giving more potential for time-saving automation.

DevOps project management vs. traditional project management

There are a few key differences between DevOps project management and traditional project management that are worth covering. 

One of the biggest differences between the two is that DevOps project management integrates development and operations teams, while traditional project management typically entails these teams working in silos.

DevOps project management also puts a strong emphasis on continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), whereas traditional project management usually takes a more linear approach with distinct phases for product development, testing, and deployment.

Finally, DevOps project management tends to be closely aligned with agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban. These methodologies emphasize flexibility and continuous improvement. On the flipside, traditional project management typically follows more rigid waterfall methodologies where requirements are defined upfront — and there isn't as much room for flexibility.

Essential skills for a DevOps project manager

Great leadership is the grease that smooths the gears in any DevOps project. Let’s dive into some of the most essential skills needed to succeed in DevOps project management:

Knowledge of DevOps principles

A strong understanding of DevOps principles is the first thing required for successful DevOps project management. This includes principles such as agile and iterative development, CI/CD, the use of automation to streamline processes, and effective stakeholder management.

Strong communication and collaboration

DevOps project management entails a more integrated approach between teams and team members. So it’s no surprise that breaking down silos between teams is one of the model's top benefits. 

But this also means DevOps project managers need solid communication and collaboration skills.

In DevOps project management, project managers have to coordinate the operations teams and development teams while continuously collaborating with other stakeholders — like agency executives or the product's end users. This requires project managers to create a collaborative and transparent environment where everyone's goals and efforts align.

Given that lack of communication and collaboration is one of the most common reasons why projects fail, strong communication and collaboration are skills every project manager should master — especially DevOps project managers.

Leadership and team management

It goes without saying that project managers need to be strong leaders. For DevOps project management, strong leadership and team management skills are especially important since they are tasked with integrating and leading multiple teams.

Technical aptitude

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DevOps project management is typically technical by nature, and DevOps project managers need to exhibit a strong understanding of the tools and technologies they’ll be using. This includes tools like version control systems, continuous integration servers, deployment automation tools, and monitoring solutions. 

Developing a thorough understanding of these tools and how they facilitate collaboration, integration, and automation will help project managers ensure their team members get maximum results out of the tools they’ve been provided.

Problem-solving and decision-making

What do yoga, ballet, and DevOps project management have in common? 


In fact, flexibility is one of the core principles of DevOps project management. This can be highly advantageous since it allows agencies to make changes to a project on the fly rather than being limited by more rigid requirements. 

But it also means DevOps project managers need to be adept problem-solvers since on-the-fly flexibility requires on-the-fly decision-making.

Best practices for effective DevOps project management

There are several best practices that you can employ for effective DevOps project management, including:

Implement agile methodologies

Blog post image Credit: Institute of Project Management

Agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban are vital to DevOps project management. These agile processes play such an important role in DevOps project management that many organizations choose to hire a Scrum Master (which has to be one of the coolest official job titles you can have!), whose primary responsibility is helping project teams implement agile methodologies.

Agile project management methodologies emphasize flexibility and efficiency. They commonly involve breaking down projects into small cycles and milestones to allow for frequent reassessments and iterative improvements, and they are a vital and beneficial part of the DevOps project management model.

Effective collaboration is key

We've already talked about the importance of DevOps project managers having strong collaboration and communication skills. The fact that DevOps project management requires project managers to integrate their agency's development and operations teams is one reason why effective collaboration is so key to the process.

Clearly communicating with clients and other stakeholders is also a key part of DevOps project management’s collaborative aspect, and commonly requires collecting and incorporating feedback from clients. 

Making changes to the project throughout its development will also require project managers to earn buy-in by regularly communicating those changes to agency executives.

That’s a lot of vital processes where effective collaboration is key, making this one of the most vital ingredients in the recipe for successful DevOps project management.  

Embrace the MVP approach

MVP stands for "minimum viable product" and is one of the most valuable players (yes, pun completely intended) in DevOps project management. 

An MVP is a version of the product that includes the minimum set of features and functionalities required to deliver value to its end users, and the MVP approach can provide a lot of valuable early feedback.

The MVP approach to DevOps project management entails releasing a minimally viable version of the product early in its development lifecycle to collect feedback from the product's users. Think beta versions of software or video games.  

Project managers can then use this feedback to help fuel the process of interactive development and continuous improvement central to DevOps project management.

Facilitate client feedback and promote project transparency

Client feedback is worth its weight in gold, and the MVP approach is just one way to collect it. Throughout the development process, project managers should work to involve clients and end users heavily in order to collect, assess, and incorporate feedback whenever possible.

One important key to collecting client feedback is promoting project transparency. By clearly communicating project updates, challenges, and achievements to your clients, you can make sure they fully understand the project and the state of its development. 

It’s a lot easier for clients to tell you what they think when they understand what they’re looking at (and it’s the same for us, honestly). This means project transparency can vastly improve the quality of feedback your agency gets.

Regularly monitor and measure performance

Continuous improvement requires continuous monitoring and testing. With each iteration of the product your team produces, there should be thorough testing to measure performance. 

This ongoing monitoring and testing of the product will allow you and your team to hone in on specific elements you need to revamp and will provide data to help you continue your product improvements.

DevOps project management tools to support your workflows

From forecasting and project planning tools to data visualization tools to tools for automating DevOps project workflows, there are plenty of apps DevOps project managers can use to further streamline their development process. 

Some of the best DevOps project management tools you’ll find on the mark today include:

1. Teamwork

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Teamwork is a project management platform built for maximum efficiency and transparency. It’s a tool that perfectly aligns with some of the most important principles of DevOps project management.

With Teamwork, project managers get a centralized, easy-to-navigate dashboard for organizing projects, communicating with team members and clients, tracking project progress, and a wide variety of other tasks. Teamwork also provides a large library of pre-built templates and automated workflows designed to further streamline DevOps project management.

Best of all, Teamwork is a project management platform built to prioritize ease of use, allowing project managers and their teams to skip the learning curve and jump straight to enjoying the many advanced features Teamwork provides. 

To see how Teamwork can help your agency develop a more streamlined and transparent DevOps project management process, check out our project management features.

2. Jira

Jira is a project management/issue-tracking platform specifically designed for software development teams

Built with agile software development in mind, Jira allows DevOps engineers and project managers to break down projects into manageable chunks and further organize those projects with user stories, issues, and tasks.

 Jira then empowers managers and team members to effortlessly collaborate while also making it easy to track project progress, release new product iterations, measure product performance, and create reports.

3. GitLab

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GitLab focuses on helping project managers organize projects and assign/manage team member tasks. 

With GitLab, project managers can create "issues" and "epics" to organize tasks assigned to team members. GitLab also allows you to assign labels, milestones, and iterations to the issues you create for further categorization.

Along with helping DevOps project managers break complex projects down into easy-to-track tasks, GitLab also provides data visualization tools that let you analyze project progress at a glance across a variety of metrics.

4. Azure Boards

With Azure Boards, project teams can use Kanban boards, team dashboards, and custom reporting to collaborate and track project progress throughout every stage of development. Azure Boards also provides advanced analytics features that are especially useful for monitoring and measuring the performance of DevOps projects.

However, the biggest benefit of Azure Boards is its ability to integrate with the larger suite of Microsoft Azure DevOps products. This large suite of tools and powerful integration capabilities allow project DevOps project managers to create a tech stack that encompasses the entire lifecycle of DevOps projects.

5. AWS DevOps

AWS DevOps is a suite of DevOps tools offered by Amazon Web Services. 

AWS DevOps provides tools, features, and services designed to simplify DevOps processes, such as monitoring product performance, automating software releases, deploying code, managing and monitoring infrastructure.

Like Azure Boards, the ability to integrate with a large ecosystem of other tools and applications is one key benefit of AWS DevOps. On the AWS Marketplace, project managers can find thousands of tools offered by Amazon Web Services that allow them to build an integrated and comprehensive solution to DevOps project management.

Accelerate your DevOps projects with Teamwork

DevOps project management can be a highly advantageous approach to developing new software products — especially when project teams leverage the right DevOps tools. 

With Teamwork, project managers and teams can access all the tools needed to create organized, transparent, and automated DevOps projects.

From client communication to tracking project progress, Teamwork streamlines every step of the DevOps project development process. To see for yourself why so many DevOps project managers choose Teamwork as their go-to project management platform, sign up for Teamwork today!

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