DevOps is one of the greatest cultural shifts the IT industry has ever had. It's a set of practices that brings together the development and operations teams to deliver high-quality products and services in a more efficient, faster way.
A large number of organizations have shifted to the DevOps culture because they realize the benefits of DevOpss. But getting the best out of DevOps isn't as easy as installing software and getting results. This is because DevOps is not just a tool but also a mindset.
Once organizations start practicing DevOps, the next step is to assess how this shift is performing. It's very difficult to know the amount of transformation a change has brought without measuring it. Therefore, it's important to measure the change, and that's where metrics come in.
In this post, we'll focus on various DevOps metrics, how they help measure DevOps transformation, and how tools can help. But before getting to that, let's try to understand why it's difficult to measure the outcomes of a DevOps team.
Why Can It Be Hard to Measure Outcomes of DevOps?
To make this easy to understand, I'll first give an example of something that's easy to measure and then compare it with measuring a DevOps outcome.
Let's say you want to measure your return on investment in the stock market. This is straightforward. You know the price you bought a stock for, and you know the price you sold it for. So, it's easy to calculate your ROI.
Now, let's step it up a bit. How would you measure your success in the past year?
Clearly, this is a bit more difficult than the previous example. First, there are multiple factors here. Success means different things to different people. It can involve salary, promotions, appreciation, revenue, and so on. Secondly, not all of these factors are quantitative.
DevOps is even more complicated than the second example. There are a great number of factors and variables in the organization to measure the ROI or outcome. Also, most of these factors aren't quantitative. That's why it can be hard to measure the outcomes of a DevOps team.
Nevertheless, you can still use some metrics to measure your DevOps success. And to make things easier, you can also use some tools.
DevOps Metrics That Actually Matter
Depending on what changes you've made and what you want to measure, you can select various metrics for your use case. But for this post, we'll stick to the ones that are universal. We're going to refer to DORA's State of the DevOps Report and the SPACE framework for these metrics.
DORA's State of the DevOps Report
DORA's State of the DevOps Report is the result of years of research. It addresses capabilities and practices that drive software delivery, operational performance, and organizational performance. This report talks about four major metrics that you can use to measure DevOps outcomes.
Metric 1: Deployment Frequency
One of the main pillars of DevOps is continuous delivery. And deployment frequency is a direct measure of continuous delivery.
Deployment frequency means how often code deploys. Code deployment can be bug fixes, new features, updates for performance, configuration changes, and so on. Measuring deployment frequency helps you understand how smooth the workflow of your team is. Lower deployment frequency or frequent delays are indicators of problems in the workflow. By measuring this metric, you can improve the process to ensure a smoother workflow.
As a side note, I found that on-demand readily available ephemeral environments that replicate production as key to improving release frequency. The code quality the developer produces is higher and the likelihood that it will require rollback during the release process is lower
Metric 2: Lead Time for Change
Lead time for change means how long the team takes to get the committed code to run in production. This metric is a measure of the performance, productivity and skills of the team. High lead times can occur when the change is too large, but it can also be an indication of performance.
According to DORA's research, low performers reported lead time for change to be more than six months. In contrast, elite performers reported it to be less than an hour! So, this metric can help identify a lack of skills and experience. It makes sense to use this method to prioritize training and skill improvement.
More on how to improve developers productivity here.
Metric 3: Change Failure Rate
Change failure rate is the percentage of deployments to production that have resulted in degraded services. Degraded can mean bugs, outages, performance problems, and so on. Change failure rate is a metric that represents the efficiency of the deployment process. A high value of this metric indicates that there's a serious problem in the deployment process, and it needs immediate attention.
Metric 4: Mean Time to Restore Service
Mean time to restore service is the average time a team takes to recover from a production failure. This metric helps you understand how efficient your team is in recovering from an incident.
There are a lot of factors involved in recovering from an incident, from the point of detecting a failure to troubleshooting it and finding a fix or rolling back. Use this to determine the efficiency, skills, and stability of your DevOps team.
So there you have it: the four main metrics used to measure the performance and efficiency of DevOps teams. Let's look at this process from another angle, though.
The SPACE framework focuses on the productivity of teams. SPACE stands for satisfaction, performance, activity, communication and collaboration, and efficiency. Let's look at these factors one by one.
SPACE Metric 1: Satisfaction
Satisfaction is the value teams get from their work. If a person doesn't like what they're doing, then it's obvious that their productivity will drop down. This metric helps you understand the alignment of an employee's interest with the plan of the organization or manager for that employee.
SPACE Metric 2: Performance
This metric is straightforward and helps measure how well a team is functioning. The SPACE framework suggests measuring performance by outcomes rather than by output of tasks. The main reason for this is that a team's task is difficult to score as it's a combination of quality and quantity.
SPACE Metric 3: Activity
Activity is the count of actions a team has performed or the number of outputs a team has produced. You can use this metric to measure the productivity and efficiency of a team to a certain extent. (Why only to a certain extent? Well, the tasks of a DevOps team are difficult to quantify.)
SPACE Metric 4: Communication and Collaboration
For an organization to function smoothly and produce high-quality outputs, it's important for teams and team members to communicate and collaborate. This is especially vital for DevOps teams because different specialists work together. Teams with good understanding and rapport are more productive. And this metric helps you understand how easy (or difficult) it is for teams and team members to work with one another.
SPACE Metric 5: Efficiency
Efficiency is the measure of completing a task with minimal delays. This metric is closely associated with productivity. Minimal interruptions and delays help maintain better flow. As a result, productivity also increases.
In addition to the metrics I've discussed in this article, there are many others that help you measure various tasks and processes. But the ones I've listed are enough to give you a high-level general understanding of DevOps outcomes.
The More Metrics You Use, the Bigger the Picture
You can measure and derive most DevOps metrics individually. But is it OK to also look at them independently and together and then draw conclusions?
Each metric provides valuable information but not complete information. So to get the whole story, you need to make these metrics work together.
For example, a high value of deployment frequency is a good thing for a team. But if the same team has the highest failure rate, then that changes the overall performance rating of the team. Therefore, you must use all relevant metrics to get the bigger picture.
What Does It All Mean?
A shift to DevOps is something a lot of organizations have been very excited about. And DevOps metrics are a way to see and interpret results.
Measuring these metrics and correlating them isn't easy. So you might want to consider using tools to collect these metrics, process them, and also visualize them for you.
There are a lot of tools that can help you not only measure the metrics but also improve them. For example, Release allows you to set up production-like environments, including the right dataset, cloud native services, security policies, that are automatically available with each PR and automatically tear down when the PR is merged.. You can learn more about Release's use cases or check out the company's blog.
We've discussed some of the most important metrics that almost every organization can use. And you can try out even more metrics to measure specific things as per your use case. Once you know where you're at with the help of these metrics, you can plan a better future.
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