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August 18, 2017

Top 3 Insights from the 2017 State of DevOps Report

3 mins read

Puppet and DORA have released this year’s edition of the State of DevOps Report. Just as in previous years (see my takeaways from 2015 and 2016), this year’s edition is packed with valuable insights about the benefits of DevOps and how to get the most from your DevOps transformation.

We continue to see high-performing organizations blowing away their non-high-performing peers in metrics that matter, like stability, throughput, IT organizational performance, and overall organizational performance. If you thought the high performers would “fall back to the pack” or that the pack would eventually close the gap, they’re not.

Coming as no surprise, automation delivers big benefits by eliminating manual, repetitive work which creates faster feedback loops and more time for value creation. Increasing the automation in your environment is a great way to get started with DevOps.

Here are my top three takeaways from this year’s report.

1. Leadership Matters.

We all know leadership matters. Now we have the science to prove that a certain type of leadership, transformational leadership, predicts higher IT and organizational performance. The report describes transformational leadership as “a model in which leaders inspire and motivate followers to achieve higher performance by appealing to their values and sense of purpose, facilitating wide-scale organizational change.” Based on research by Dr. Alannah Rafferty and Dr. Mark Griffin, transformational leaders have five characteristics: vision, inspirational communications, intellectual stimulation, supportive leadership, and personal recognition. The teams without leaders who exhibited these characteristics were half as likely to be high performers.

Interestingly, the report also makes the statement that transformational leadership alone is not enough to improve performance. However, its presence does enable the rest of the practices that do. “Transformational leadership enables the necessary practices that correlate with high performance, and it also supports effective communication and collaboration between team members in pursuit of organizational goals.”

2. The Tradeoff Between Throughput and Stability Doesn’t have to Exist.

In the 2015 State of DevOps Report we learned the tradeoff between throughput and stability doesn’t exist for high-performing organizations. High-performing organizations get both higher throughput and higher stability. Over the last three years, we’ve seen non-high-performing organizations bounce around on throughput and stability metrics, sometimes getting better and sometimes getting worse. For them, any gains in throughput are offset by reduced stability. And any gains in stability come at the expense of reduced throughput.

According to the report, “We speculate that this is due to low-performing teams working to increase speed, but not investing enough in building quality into the process. The result is larger failures, and more time to restore service. High performers understand that they don’t have to trade speed for stability or vice versa, because by building quality in, they get both.”

If you hear your teams saying they don’t have enough time to automate tests, deploys, or builds, you might be falling into the “either/or” trap of lower performing organizations.

3. Create Autonomy to get Continuous Delivery.

Creating loosely coupled architectures and empowered teams supports continuous delivery and leads to better performance. The architecture should support deployment of new and updated services on demand, independent of other services. Teams should also have everything they need to do their work — from start to finish — and have the ability to make their own tool and technology decisions. In addition, teams should have the freedom to experiment to determine what to build and how to build it to deliver the best results.

This is a challenging concept for many enterprises, but the report states, “A team’s ability to try out new ideas and create and update specifications during the development process (without requiring approval from outside the team) is an important factor in predicting organizational performance, as measured in terms of profitability, productivity, and market share.” Why not run some experiments with some of your teams to see if creating autonomy does give you better results?

Each year’s State of DevOps Reports adds to our understanding of what DevOps is all about and how to improve the performance of our organizations. This year’s report is no different. Check out my takeaways from the 2015 and 2016 editions, too.

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