Measuring the pulse of DevOps

2018 Accelerate State of DevOps Report: Methods and habits of the new DevOps elite

Sarah Schlothauer
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Every year, DevOps Research and Assessment releases a report about the state of DevOps. What did their findings in 2018 show? How can you use these key findings to propel your team to the top elite?

DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) unveiled their 2018 Accelerate State of DevOps Report. Over 1,800 respondents from a varied sphere of companies were surveyed about cloud infrastructure, leadership and learning culture, delivery performance, database practices, and much more.

This is DORA’s fifth year of research and with it comes new focuses and a wider investigation. Starting in 2014, only 16% of people responded that they work in a DevOps team. Now in 2018, that number has grown to an impressive 27%. Let’s take a look at the findings and what they mean for the growing world of DevOps.

A new DevOps elite

DORA’s software delivery performance benchmarks classified teams into three sections: high, medium, and low performers. Each team was measured on their global outcomes. Deployment frequency, lead time for changes, time to restore service, and change failure rate were all recorded.

15% of teams were classified as low performers, 37% as medium performers, and 48% as high performers. Included in the high performers are a 7% elite class who demonstrate excellence.

Elite performer outranked their peers in a number of ways:

  • 46 times more frequent code deployments
  • 2,555 times faster from commit to deploy
  • 7 times lower change failure rate
  • 2,604 times faster recovery from incidents

What is one of the key features that misguided performers have in common? They have an overly cautious approach to software development and delivery.

Team focus affects success

How does a low performer advance to a high performer, or even to the golden elite?

The study states, “Our analysis shows that high performers do significantly less manual work across all vectors, spend more time doing new work, and spend less time remediating security issues or defects than their low-performing counterparts.

Automation is one of the keys to becoming a better performer. Due to automation, tasks are sped up, quality and consistency is improved. As a result, this allows teams to work on higher value tasks. More manpower is available when automation takes care of low level work.

Often, the way teams spend their time is what keeps them in lower levels of performance. Most noteworthy, unplanned work, security issues, interruptions, customer support work, and defects are all roadblocks that keep a low performer from advancing.

Elite performers spent 50% of time on new work, compared to a paltry 30% of time taken by low performers. Low performers also spend 15% of their time doing customer support work. Meanwhile, the elite spends only 5% of their time on these tasks.

SEE ALSO: The DevOps guide to evaluating modern log management tools

The growing cloud

There’s no denying it, the cloud market is growing. As a result, only a minority of users are holding out.

17% reported that they have no cloud provider. Meanwhile, AWS takes the lead as the preferred cloud platform with 52% of usage, while Azure trails behind with 34%.

Using more than one cloud service is becoming common. 41% of respondents claimed they have a single provider. In contrast, 40% use multiple cloud services. Some of the reasons behind this choice are: availability, disaster recovery plans, lack of trust in one provider, and legal compliance.

What do elite users have in common regarding the cloud?

“Users adopting platform as a service are 1.5 times more likely to be elite performers and users adopting cloud-native design practices are 1.8 times more likely to be elite performers. Users of infrastructure as code to manage their cloud deployments are 1.8 times more likely to be elite and users of containers are 1.5 time more likely to be elite performers.”

However, cloud usage is hitting a roadblock. Users are not adopting defining characteristics of the cloud to their benefit and it is impacting their software delivery performance. DORA lists five essential characteristics of cloud computing, and all of them struggle.

Percentage of respondents who agree or strongly agree that a characteristic is being met:

  • On-demand self-service: 46%
  • Broad network access: 46%
  • Resource pooling: 43%
  • Rapid elasticity: 45%
  • Measured service: 48%

None of these characteristics hits the half way mark and because of this, efficiency is taking a toll.

“Culture is a key component of DevOps”

What makes an organizational culture thrive? DORA relies on benchmarks set by sociologist Ron Westrum. Westrum “found that organizational culture was predictive of safety and performance outcomes”.

A culture can be pathological (power-oriented), bureaucratic (rule-orientated), or generative (performance-oriented). Each of these categories deals with cooperation, responsibilities, risks, novelty, and reaction to failure differently. In order for successful DevOps to flourish, a certain culture should be reached.This includes breaking down silos and implementing novelty.

How can you use this findings to better your team? Copy the best. “When researchers at Google studied over 180 engineering teams, they found that the most important factor in predicting a high-performing team is psychological safety, or feeling safe taking risks around your team. This was followed by dependability, structure and clarity of work, meaning, and impact.”

Other important factors for a team of high-performers include a strong climate for learning. Learning should be a valuable investment and leads to performance gains. To avoid team burnout, learning should be on the job, instead of an expected task during weekends or overtime. On the job learning allows for faster adaptation to unexpected changes.

SEE ALSO: DevOps becomes BizDevOps: 4 steps to add more value to your work

Widening demographics

Finally, 2018 saw an increase in female respondents, reflecting recent industry gender distribution. This year, 12% of respondents identified as female and respondents stated that 25% of their teams are women. This is a sizable increase: last year only 6% of respondents were women. The number of women entering the IT world is growing strong!

Furthermore, 4% of respondents did not specify their gender and less than 1% identified as non-binary.

This year was also the first time that that DORA asked about disability demographics. 6% of respondents said that they have some kind of disability, while 9% preferred not to respond.

Performance key findings

Need more data to help thrust your team into the realm of elite performers? Consider these findings.

  • Open source matters. “Open source software is 1.75 times more likely to be extensively used by the highest performers, who are also 1.5 times more likely to expand open source usage in the future.”
  • Outsourcing hurts performance. “Low-performing teams are almost 4 times as likely to outsource whole functions such as testing or operations than their highest-performing counterparts.”
  • High performance can happen in any industry. “We find high performers in both non-regulated and highly regulated industries alike.”
  • Team trust grows companies. “We found that when leaders give their teams autonomy in their work it leads to feelings of trust and voice.”

Want to take a look at the data yourself? Find out more about DORA and their research and access their reports.


Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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