The Complete Guide to ChatOps
⏱ Reading Time: 8 minutes
Among many DevOps teams, ChatOps is becoming more and more popular. According to a survey, teams utilizing this tool saw an average of 32% increase in productivity, a 48.6% decrease in an internal email, and a 25.1% reduction in meetings. It also increased team transparency by 80.4%.
Now, what really is this ChatOps? How does it work? Is it beneficial?
There are a lot of people with these questions in mind. They often hear the term but they don’t know what it actually is so if you are one of these confused people, you did the right thing by visiting this page. We are here to guide you on this journey of knowing all about ChatOps!
What is ChatOps?
ChatOps is a collaborative model which links people, operations, tools, and automation into a seamless workflow. In other words, it incorporates optimization tools and operational methods into a common shared platform. This model also introduces equipment into conversations and uses chatbots that work with basic plugins and scripts. As a result, teams can automate tasks and collaborate to work more efficiently, economically, and faster. ChatOps transfers conversations from email to business chat tools. However, it goes beyond the basic conversations. It compares conversations with context and actions. The team then creates a uniform interface for everything that happens throughout the day including how a task was performed, who performed it, and the outcome.
Picture 1. ChatOps business model
ChatOps and DevOps
DevOps is a set of methods that focus on collaboration and communication between software developers (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). ChatOps is derived from the principle of DevOps.
The main goal of DevOps is to quickly deploy high-quality functions into production without interrupting other services. Also, it aims to identify and resolve software problems as they arise.
Major Components of ChatOps
The performance of ChatOps is built around three major components.
The collaboration tool is the front-end chat system that connects different stakeholders. It allows them to reach out and collaborate among themselves and their surrounding systems. For example:
Slack -A leading group chat platform with over 4 million active users per day. It was also one of the first to integrate bots into the system.
Hip-chat-Another well-known platform that provides teams and businesses with features such as group chat, video chat, file sharing, and screen sharing in the system.
Bots are at the heart of ChatOps practices. It’s the glue that binds your collaboration tools and systems together. They enable a two-way communication channel. You can obtain information about your concerns from the system and also influence them by executing orders directly from the collaboration tool. Bots manage all data traffic within the system. Also, it offers a secure, flexible, and solid gateway for a worry-free flow of information and data between the systems.
Hubot is a prime example of bot tools that are widely used these days.
Product integration is a key factor in successfully adopting the ChatOps approach. By creating a tool integration for your environment, your bot can simplify communication with the tool. Also, it can run tasks such as deployment and testing directly from the chat window. In this way, you can achieve real added value from ChatOps.
You can execute transactions directly through the system, or you can execute complex automated processes. The latter increases the productivity of the entire organization. These integrations support cross-team automation and the creation of a uniform language.
How to Get Started?
ChatOps operates on automation and tools to facilitate easy communication. Once data is stored in the chat, users don’t need to show the status of the operational work to the team. The information is displayed in the chatroom. Each member can see the shared context, make decisions and take appropriate action.
To build and run a team with ChatOps requires an investment. Start small and find out what works best and what doesn’t. Bots are a great choice for ChatOps. There are different bots with different plugins and different languages for development. Lita, Hubot, and Err are some popular chatbots that give teams the best options for their workflow. Choose the bot framework that best suits your development stack. After the chatbot starts up, the next step is to define its function. For starters, it’s best to keep it simple.
The important thing is to choose a tool that will accommodate everyone. There are many great options for ChatOps tools, plugins, and add-ons. Start with a simple one and gain some experience in understanding what works for your group. You may run into issues and errors, but that’s fine. It’s a part of the process.
The more you familiarise yourself with coding and executing commands with the chatbot, the more efficient you will become. With the participation of technical and non-technical personnel, you can develop an efficient process as well as a more growth-oriented culture in the company.
Picture 2. ChatOps approach
Benefits of ChatOps
Automation of Tasks
Chatbots can be configured to select real-time instructions, make gestures, and override the console to keep all members on one page. Conversations can be organized to trigger actions automatically. There’s also no need for the staff to maintain a repository of scripts. The code can be stored and computerized on a centralized and well-documented communication platform.
ChatOps allows you to tailor the conversation to the realities of the project context. It provides comprehensive visibility for analysts and the people involved. You can also track accountability and assign task ownership more easily.
You enjoy better collaboration by centralizing every interaction with the system and the team in a single command-line interface. Anyone on your team can view the chat room conversations, and this ensures the greater involvement of each member.
ChatOps helps in knowledge exchange and communication alignment. You get a complete archive of all orders and actions. All analytical knowledge is well stored and can be used at any time if needed.
ChatOps accelerates the decision-making process. Gathering information from different systems and people is very time-consuming. With ChatOps, all information is provided instantly by entering a single command in the chat room. Switching between screens is also not necessary due to the single window functionality. Security tools, chatbots, and analysts easily coordinate without taking up a lot of time.
When members are on the same page, anyone can easily join and contribute to projects and discussions. Information-driven collaboration eliminates restrictions and delays in getting the right records to complete great jobs.
Picture 3. Employee Collaboration
The Challenges ChatOps Faces
Initially, ChatOps might sound cool, and engaging but it isn’t bug-free. You will surely encounter challenges at some point along the way. Let’s check out some of these challenges.
- The number of members within an organization increases over time and joins the team. This leads to increased conversations and updates from various services which can be quite annoying.
- With large teams, there are a whole bunch of things to catch up on. In the process, you might miss out on some important ones and fail to engage further with chat tools
- Not all tools available provide the same experience. Be well informed and aware of picking your tools. If not, you’ll be disappointed with the outcome.
- ChatOps is not really suitable for private conversations and discussions outside of the topic.
Conversation-based collaboration is nothing new. However, with ChatOps, the oldest forms of collaboration are blended with the latest technology. It lets you bring together your team in ways that email and instant messaging apps could never do. In other words, it supports collaborative communication between people and tools, reducing incident response time, avoiding repeated information requests, and ensuring that all members of the DevOps team have constant access to the information they need for their work.
ChatOps has definitely contributed big to the advancement of communication. Despite that ChatOps is rested on the principles of DevOps. The key element that DevOps offers is a greater focus on collaboration, automation, shared institutional knowledge, and context. Adopting these principles does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort to make continuous progress.
ChatOps are not for everyone. But teams with modern software tools that have sharp CI (Continuous Integration) and CD (Continuous Delivery) are likely to benefit the most out of it.
Kristin Mortis is a Marketing Manager with 8+ years of experience at TDInsights based out of Plano, Texas. She helps businesses deliver the strongest marketing turnaround with cutting-edge digital strategies and tools. She writes about B2B Marketing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and other technological innovations. Connect with Kristin on Twitter to learn about the emerging practices being implemented in the B2B segment.
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