Over the course of six years, the DevOps Research and Assessment consulting firm has conducted 27,000 interviews among DevOps practitioners. It's latest, The State of DevOps Report, summarizes the results of 3,200 interviews this year and contains a simple conclusion: DevOps is become a widely accepted method of transforming the organization.
In 2014, 16% of IT professionals and developers worked in DevOps. Three years later, the number has moved up to 27%, the report said.
The results of the report is co-presented by DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) and the open source configuration software firm, Puppet. DORA and Puppet have several sponsors behind the report, including: Deloitte, Splunk, HPE, Amazon, Electric Cloud, Atlassian and Wavefront, a unit of VMware since May.
DORA CEO and Chief Scientist Nicole Forsgren is the lead researcher on the report. She's aided by CTO Jez Humble, who is co-author of The DevOps Handbook, Lean Enterprise and Continuous Delivery, all of which can be found on Amazon; also Chief Commercial Officer Soo Choi, former senior product manager at Chef Software and co-founder of Anso Labs, the engineers behind the Nova Compute Project at NASA that became a core component of OpenStack; and other DORA staff members.
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The report's upfront summary claims the evidence is clear: "DevOps practices lead to higher IT performance." The improved performance is evident in business productivity, profitability and market share, but in 2017, the report concludes that the benefits of DevOps "go beyond financial results." Not-for-profit organizations the same as for-profit "are better able to meet their goals," it said. DevOps apparently just makes you a more effective organization overall.
While initially there was a focus on DevOps culture and practices, the authors concluded that DevOps most frequently thrives when it has produced "transformational leaders," who share five characteristics.
They are: a vision of where the organization needs to go, inspirational communication, intellectual stimulation, supportive leadership and personal recognition for team members.
"High performing teams have leaders "with the strongest behaviors across these dimensions" with low-performing teams finding an absence of one or several of them, the report said.
The gap between high performing and low performing teams narrowed this year when it came to frequency of deployments of production code. Low performers have improved deployment frequency, but they still report higher failure rates from deployments and slower recovery times. The pressure to deploy more often "causes lower performers to pay insufficient attention to building in quality," the authors noted. And deployment code quality builds in greater stability in the results, they added. Stability is simply the measure of how many updates succeed versus how many fail and must be done again.
Building automation into the testing, configuration management and deployment of code "is a huge boon for organizations," the report also noted. The highest performing DevOps teams automate "significantly more" than other teams, with the result that there's more time for innovation and a faster feedback cycle in code production.
Loosely-coupled architectures and teams that oriented toward producing them are the best predictors of organizations that will achieve continuous delivery. In the latter state, production software can be updated frequently—daily or even hourly – and it will still run without interruption. The loosely coupled approach to applications keeps the amount of code exposed in each update limited to one segment or one microservice of the application, and that code can be thoroughly tested before deployment. The shift to loosely-coupled "will demand significant investment for those enterprises that require many handoffs and approvals to get work from the drawing into production," the authors warned. But the result will be higher throughput of code and better stability.
A sometimes overlooked practice, lean product management, will help DevOps teams deliver features that customers want in a more timely fashion. A faster delivery cycle to customers in turn allows the product team to experiment with features, creating a feedback loop from customers that indicates what they actually want, rather than what product planners and developers may be most invested in. The lean product management enabled by DevOps returns benefits in profits, market share and overall organization productivity, the report said in one of its key findings.
In a world increasingly dominated by software, each business must rely on its IT staff and developers to generate the software needed. Without efficient software production, it can't advance its purpose competitively. Organizations are turning to DevOps not as an experiment but because of "the growing evidence that DevOps practices help you deliver software faster, more reliably and with fewer errors," the report said.
Part of successful delivery is measured by throughput: how fast does code move from the developer's initial commit to the moment it gets deployed into production. Successful builds, function and regression testing, configuration, staging and actual deployment all need to proceed with both speed and quality of code in mind. It's the successful maintenance of that tension that leads to continuous delivery by the experienced DevOps organization, the report said.