DORA and Google Cloud Chart a Pathway to Elite DevOps Performance

Written by: Samuel Fell
8 min read

CloudBees and Google Cloud collaborate together across many disciplines to accelerate application development, and strategically enable businesses as they digitally transform.

During our annual DevOps World | Jenkins World conference held earlier in August, Google Cloud and CloudBees announced a partnership to provide end-to-end application development automation from source to production for Anthos workloads .

And more recently, DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) and Google Cloud released the 2019 Accelerate State of DevOps Report (ASODR) - of which CloudBees is a proud sponsor.

What is the 2019 Accelerate State of DevOps Report ?

The 2019 Accelerate State of DevOps Report is the largest and longest-running research of its kind, providing an independent view into the practices and capabilities that drive high performance. The results let us understand the practices that lead to excellence in technology delivery and powerful business outcomes.

Founded by well-known DevOps luminaries Dr. Nicole Forsgren (CEO), Jez Humble (CTO) and Gene Kim (General Partner) , DORA’s stated mission is to help organizations understand their unique strengths and weaknesses, and show them precisely where to focus their resources to deliver rapid, lasting improvement in the delivery capability of your digital and IT teams.

DORA was acquired by Google Cloud in late 2018, which sent a strong signal to the market that the research DORA was leading was valuable, indeed. As a recurring sponsor of this report (at both Electric Cloud, and now at CloudBees) I was not surprised by the acquisition!

What did we learn this year?

Continuous delivery (CD) performance matters not only for IT organizations but also a company’s ability to be competitive. If you are a non-trivial software business (and pretty much every non-trivial business is) then guess what? You’re now competing with every other software business in the world.

The 2019 Accelerate State of DevOps Report tells us, again, that organizations who follow specific DevOps practices and efficient CI/CD tooling are able to deploy faster, fail less frequently and recover more quickly from downtime.

Many analysts are reporting the industry has “crossed the chasm” with regards to DevOps and technology transformation, and our analysis this year confirms these observations.

Last year , the report showed that high software delivery performance can be achieved regardless of industry, vertical or type of company. This year was no different - high-performing organizations can emerge from any industry. However, in the 2019 report, retail stood out as having even higher performance improvements - possibly because of the razor-thin margins they have to work with, and the incredibly competitive playing field they face with the likes of Amazon, Target and Walmart. The fact that retail is also burdened with regulations (PCI/DSS, for example) is proof-positive that DevOps practices and higher velocity, safe value delivery can be achieved regardless of regulatory requirements.

This year, four things in the research stood out for me, as I believe they are very relevant to the dynamic, ever-changing DevOps market that we find ourselves in. These include:

  1. Continuous Improvement: A virtuous cycle?

Last year, within the high performer group, a new subset emerged — elite performers — representing a relatively small portion of the high performers (7% of the 48%). Those elite performers improved their level of software delivery performance even more so than the average high performer. Apparently this group takes “continuous improvement” seriously, and this year they accelerated away from the pack to create their own distinct group -- which grew dramatically from last year to this year (from 7% to 20%; see figure 1, below).

“The improvement in the quality of the daily work is more important than the quality of the daily work.”

--Gene Kim

We are seeing this among our own customers as well. There are many examples of organizations that we work with who are leading the way in terms of fostering a growth-mindset and can-do culture. Focusing on “continuous improvement” and not “current status” helps to level the playing field in some ways… eventually, you will overtake all competitors, regardless of where you are, as long as you continue to improve, a little every day!

These customers have teams that speak a common language, so everyone has access to contextualized information and insight. They are able to take advantage of common and connected processes (that themselves are continuously iterated on, and improved!) and are able to work together more effectively to 1) ship better product and 2) ship product better.

Figure 1. Performance Clusters, from the Accelerate State of DevOps Report 2019

  1. Empowering engineering teams with easy-to-use tooling helps

This year’s research paints an interesting picture on the subject of tooling -- specifically, that the user experience matters. A lot.

Specifically, the research focused on the following two attributes:

  • How easy it is to use the toolchain

  • How useful the toolchain is in accomplishing job-related goals

When looking at all the data, the researchers found that teams with the highest-performing engineers were 1.5X more likely to have easy-to-use tools.

One of our core missions at CloudBees is to enable engineers with incredibly powerful and easy-to-use tools, as we believe “engineers” (found in both Dev and Ops) are the real heroes in this DevOps story. To that end, we are continuously working to improve both the utility and the user experience, of the open-source projects we participate in (Jenkins, Jenkins X, etc.) and the commercial offerings we support (CloudBees Core, CloudBees CodeShip, CloudBees Flow, etc.).

  1. High / Elite performers use a mixture of open source and COTS tooling

Speaking of open source and commercial tooling, another one of the interesting findings from this report focuses on how the balance between proprietary (eg, “build it yourself”), commercial off the shelf (COTS) and open-source tooling affects performance. It appears that the highest percentage of ALL performance groups (low, medium, high and elite) are all taking advantage of a mix of proprietary, COTS and open source solutions for their CI/CD/DevOps toolchain.

The next most frequent response to the question of what type of tooling you use was “mainly open source and COTS, with little customization.” To explain the phenomenon of how high performers can use COTS and still be high-performers, the research cites CI pioneer Martin Fowler , stating that “Companies should be thoughtful about which software is strategic and which is merely utility. By addressing their utility needs with COTS solutions and minimizing customization, high performers save their resources for strategic software development efforts.”

What’s even more interesting is that low performers had the highest amount of (20%) proprietary solutions in use. When you reflect on the statistics about empowering engineering teams with easy to use tools, it’s not surprising that “build-it-yourself” efforts, which can be a considerable time-sync for teams, are not the preferred route for high-performing teams.

Meeting our customers where they are, with the type of tooling that they are looking for, is something we strongly believe in. As we previously discussed, CloudBees supports both open source and COTS tooling to help lower the barrier to entry for those who want to get up and running quickly with free tools, while also providing commercial offerings for those looking for a COTS solution.

Figure 2. Tools usage by performance profile, from the Accelerate State of DevOps Report 2019

  1. Shared access to important information helps

This last data point made me jump for joy when I read it. For those of you who have been following the news coming out of CloudBees, you’ve likely heard about our entry into the Software Delivery Management (SDM) market. This nascent market is all about helping teams work together more effectively by providing transparency among all the teams involved in the critical business function of shipping software.

We found that having access to information sources supports productivity.

The research found that “internal search” (the ability to search for and access company knowledge bases, code repositories, ticketing systems, and other docs) contributed to engineering being 1.73X more likely to be productive!

When I think about this research in the context of Gene Kim’s “Three Ways” (in which the first is “system-level thinking” and the second is “fast feedback,”) I believe that information sharing and having access to additional context is important for more than just developers, sysadmins and support staff.

This lines up well with our CloudBees solution for SDM, which is designed to bi-directionally tie together all artifacts and data across an organization’s DevOps toolchain into a unified system of record. Doing so enables meaningful collaboration between all teams through universal insights, common connected processes, workflows and governance to truly develop and deliver software at an elite level.

In this blog post, we’ve just begun to scratch the surface on all of the information provided in this year’s report. Please join us on September 5 at 12:00pm ET for a webinar with DORA CTO and “Continuous Delivery” co-author, Jez Humble, to get a more thorough look at the 2019 survey results. Attendees will also get a free copy of the survey results!

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