The first steps of any improvement or transformation include an assessment to see where you are and a clear vision for where you want to be. Part of that is benchmarking against similar organizations and staying on top of industry trends. DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) in collaboration with Google Cloud annually releases the Accelerate State of DevOps report featuring data driven insights into the most efficient and effective ways to develop and deliver technology.
The insights are drawn from six years of comprehensive research involving more than 30,000 professionals representing organizations from around the globe in a variety of fields, including technology, financial services, healthcare and government. The findings shed light on the practices that lead to excellence in technology delivery and powerful business outcomes.
The report evaluates organizations and classifies them into four performance categories based on four metrics that collectively measure software deliverability and operational performance (SDO): Elite (20%), High (23%), Medium (44%) and Low (12%). The performance clusters and their detailed characteristics (included in the report) can serve as a benchmark for your organization.
Year-over-year trends in performance ratings highlight global trends in organizational SDO. Overall there is improvement as the number of organizations classified as elite nearly tripled while low performers decreased. What can we learn from the organizations who are operating at an elite level?
One Real Path Forward for Improvement
The report cites what it calls “the only real path forward” for improvement in all organizations. It involves a holistic approach and continuous improvement mindset that starts with foundations that can include basic automation (version control and automated testing), monitoring, clear change approval processes and healthy culture. From there, identify constraints. Focus resources and efforts on what is currently holding you back. Once the current constraints are overcome, iterate. Continue the process by identifying new constraints and choosing the next target.
The general iterative approach is highly successful, though the elements of it are context specific from organization to organization dependent on where they are, especially when it comes to the foundations. The research shows that it consistently works across the spectrum, from organizations just beginning transformations to those who have been optimizing for years.
Lightweight and Agile Outperforms Heavyweight Change Processes
DORA conducted research to test lightweight, agile and clearly understood change processes versus traditional, heavyweight and bureaucratic change processes characterized by things like change advisory boards, senior management oversight of change and formalized segregation of duties. They found that organizations using heavyweight change processes were 2.6 times more likely to be low performers in the SDO categorization. In previous studies they found a negative correlation between heavyweight change processes and low change failure rates and no correlation with risk of release issues.
They recommend that organizations “shift left” using peer review and automation to detect, prevent and correct problems early in the change cycle. Automated processes such as continuous testing and continuous integration provide timely feedback that allow for errors to be addressed quickly compared to waiting for a formal review.
Culture of Psychological Safety
DevOps and technology transformation initiatives typical stress having the right culture as being a key ingredient to success. What are the culture characteristics common to the most successful organizations? The research indicates that an organizational culture that optimizes for information flow, trust, innovation and risk-sharing is predictive of SDO performance.
The findings are consistent with those of a large two-year study at Google and Google’s Project Aristotle. In its research, DORA tested how well these findings hold outside of Google and found that a culture of psychological safety is predictive of software delivery performance, organizational performance and productivity across all types of organizations.
Making Change Happen
The Accelerate State of DevOps 2019 report is organized into sections that address three key questions: How do we compare? How do we improve? How do we transform/What really works? Broadly, these three questions address change, whether it’s an improvement, a transformation, a culture change or a change to a continuous improvement mindset. How do we make change happen?
The report is promising as it indicates that thousands of organizations representing all sectors around the globe are improving in SDO with the number categorized as elite performers nearly tripling since 2018. What we can learn from them:
- Improvement is based on a continuous improvement mindset and an iterative approach that starts from a foundation, identifies constraints and overcomes them before identifying new constraints and targets.
- Lean and agile change processes that leverage automation work better than bureaucratic heavyweight processes.
- A culture of psychological safety, that optimizes trust, innovation and risk-sharing leads to positive performance.
A good starting point is to read the report, use the data as a benchmark to assess your organization and think about how you can apply the findings to make change happen in your organization. xScion can work beside you in your transformation and ensure you are among the high and elite performers in delivering results to your customers.