ChatOps is a rising component of DevOps and ITOps. Here we explain how its functionality builds team culture and accelerates software development and incident resolution.

Chat Operations (ChatOps) is the use of chat clients and real-time chat tools to facilitate software development and operations. Also known as “conversation-driven collaboration” or “conversation-driven DevOps,” ChatOps is designed for fast and simple instant messaging between development team members. Throughout the ChatOps experience, a chatbot accepts plain-English commands and initiates actions with background apps (via API) to optimize IT operations (ITOps) and development operations (DevOps).

What are the benefits of ChatOps?

With its extensive communication features, ChatOps is designed to eliminate information silos that hinder interdepartmental collaboration and proactive decision-making. As a result, it benefits entire teams with the following:

  • Automation: Provides real-time detection and execution of commands as well as console updates.
  • Collaboration: Removes silos and communication barriers between teams and departments.
  • Engagement: Builds and sustains distributed team culture to align communication and decision-making.
  • Productivity: Enhances business processes via real-time information provision.
  • Security and compliance: Provides current and historical task documentation to enhance safety and regulation.
  • Transparency: Aligns communication and documentation project statuses.

Individually and collectively, these benefits ultimately strengthen DevOps and ITOps by speeding up team communications, which shortens development pipelines and incident response time.

How to deploy a ChatOps environment

Deploying a ChatOps environment requires using the following tool types:

  • Notification system to send alerts to chat rooms when incidents occur.
  • Chat client (e.g., Slack and Microsoft Teams) to execute pre-programmed commands.
  • Pre-existing DevOps tools (integrated into the ChatOps environment) for improving ticket tracking and automating incident remediation workflows.

Once these ChatOps tools have been acquired, an efficient environment can be implemented in three phases:

Phase 1: Establish communications

ChatOps enables teams to engage in conversations to address issues, explore solution options and then agree on a final resolution before offering it to the client.

Phase 2: Establish groups

ChatOps enables simple group chats and the sharing screen captures, videos of problems and files (e.g., log, configuration, command output). The ChatOps client can store messages, so anyone added to the group can see previous communications to get (and stay) “up to speed.”

Phase 3: Establish channels

When a major incident occurs, some chat tools automatically create specific channels. You can also configure assignment lists so that qualified team members are automatically invited to join the channel for solution development.

Best practices for ChatOps

ChatOps is a valuable component of ITOps and DevOps, and it is critical to the future development of IT environments. The following are best practices for ChatOps implementation and usage to ensure its sustainability over time:

  • Research chat platforms: Select a platform that enables consistency across web, mobile and desktop.
  • Research chatbots: Select a chatbot that is compatible with background apps, accepts plain-English commands and utilizes API connections.
  • Write and deploy custom scripts: Integrate a chatbot with cloud apps that offer an API backend for code deployment.
  • Use community scripts and plugins: Enable chatbot access to source code management, continuous integration (CI) platforms, deployment triggers, etc.
  • Develop your configuration: Extend chatbot capabilities and add security via command restrictions.
  • Create a chatbot-oriented culture: Democratize chatbot usage — communicates its benefits and displays its rewards.

Overall, these best practices help enhance automation, improve transparency, build team processes and create opportunities to improve software development in the future.

Beneficial use cases for ChatOps

Depending on the phase of implementation you’re in and your intentions for creating a ChatOps environment, the following use cases are applicable to your enterprise:

  • Access control and security: Many companies implement ChatOps for its agile engagement features. The intricate communication architecture enhances project access control, which enables long-term chat security operations (ChatSecOps).
  • Application deployment: ChatOps improve the visibility of application development pipelines amongst DevOps teams. This helps them collectively consider deployment options and orchestrate their selections accordingly.
  • Incident management: When it comes to incident detection, response and resolution, ChatOps is an invaluable tool. Throughout the resolution process, it keeps teams informed and automatically updates tickets throughout their remediation workflow.
  • Continuous delivery (CD): ChatOps integrates DevOps, ITOps and automation processes into a singular workflow. It bridges team communication, pipeline development and operational tasks for the continuous delivery of apps.

AIOps and ChatOps

AI operations (AIOps) is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance ITOps and DevOps. It leverages ChatOps to increase data visibility across IT environments, analyzes critical data to identify incidents and automatically alerts IT teams about issues, root causes and recommended solutions. The combination of AIOps and ChatOps optimizes communication and collaboration to help teams resolve incidents faster.

With a recently estimated market size of $900M to $1.5B, AIOps has a compound annual growth rate of around 15% between 2020 and 2025. This growth ensures that AIOps and ChatOps will continue to enhance application lifecycles and enable the continuous delivery of solutions over time.

IBM Cloud Pak® for Watson AIOps

Using machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps correlates structured and unstructured data in real-time to reveal hidden insights to identify root causes and recommend solutions faster. These insights and recommendations are then delivered to ChatOps in real-time for quick implementation.

Other advantages include the following:

  • Toolchain integration: Connects to all collaboration platforms and delivers alerts directly to your preferred ChatOps communication tool. 
  • Application centricity: Enables teams to integrate processes and collaboratively manage them, which enhances the ChatOps experience and DevOps intelligence.
  • Actionable insights: Delivers holistic insights that pinpoint correlation, causality and pattern identification. This helps teams leverage ChatOps to prioritize issues and resolution processes.
  • Intelligent synthesis: Provides a clear view of anomalies, with links to viable sources for faster investigation and resolution. Multiple teams can access the same data to collaboratively implement recommended solutions.

IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps is the ideal tool for proactively remediating incidents via rapid data analysis across IT environments. It leverages the ITOps toolchain to maximize resolution efficiency and resiliency. Using data synthesis, IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps provides a full view of IT applications and environments, which breaks down silos to accelerate remediation.

Learn more about IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps.

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