Choose your own DevOps Adventure

DevOps maturity models: What computer games can teach us

Mirco Hering
Gaming image via Shutterstock

Maturity models are known to lend long-term structure and understanding to the unfamiliar territory of DevOps. But anyone familiar with them will also know their many weaknesses. It turns out computer games already have all the answers.

To use maturity models or not is an eternal question that Agile and DevOps coaches struggle with. We all know that maturity models have some weaknesses, they can easily be gamed if they are used to incentivise and/or punish people, they are very prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect and often they are vague. Of course on the flipside, maturity models allow you to position yourself, your team or your company across a set of increasingly good practices and striving for the next level could be the required motivation to push ahead and implement the next improvement.

Clearly there are different reasons behind different kinds of maturity models. For a self-assessment and to set a roadmap, a traditional maturity model like the Accenture DevOps maturity model is what it takes to get these done. There are many others available on the internet, so feel free to choose the one you like best.

At one of my recent clients we performed many maturity assessments across a wide variety of teams, technologies and applications. Of course such large scope means that we did not spend a lot of time with each team to assess the maturity and not surprisingly the result was that we got very different levels of response. We heard things like “Of course we do Continuous Integration, we have Jenkins installed and it runs every Saturday”, had this team not mentioned the second part of the sentence we would have probably ticked the Continuous Integration box on the maturity sheet.

A few months later we were back in the same situation and needed to find a way to help teams self-assess their maturity in an environment where a lot of DevOps concepts are not well known and different vendors and client teams are involved which means the actual maturity rating becomes somewhat political. I was worrying about this for a while and then one night while playing on my PC, inspiration hit me – I remembered the good old Civilisation game and the technology tree:



The continuous delivery technical dependencies tree (click to enlarge)

Now if I could come up with a technology tree just like this for DevOps I might be able to use this with teams to document the practices they have in place and what it takes to get the next practice enabled. Enter the DevOps technology dependency tree (sample below):

In this tree for each leaf we created a definition and related metrics and now each team could go off and use this tree to chart where they are and how they progress. This way each team chooses their own DevOps adventure.

We also marked capabilities that the company needed to provide so that each team could leverage common practices that are strategically aligned (like a common test automation framework or deployment framework). This tree has been hugely successful at this specific client and we continue to update it whenever we find a better representation and believe new practices should be represented.

Who would have thought that playing hours of computer games would come in handy one day…

This post first appeared on

    Mirco Hering
    Mirco has for the last 9 years worked on accelerating software delivery through innovative approaches (what would now be called DevOps) and a few years ago started experimenting with Agile methods. Mirco works for a major consulting and systems integration provider and supports major public and private sector companies in Australia and overseas in their search for efficient IT delivery. He also regularly writes about software deliver, Agile and DevOps on

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