The State of DevOps 2017
July 10, 2017

Nigel Kersten

Today, DevOps is an understood set of practices and cultural values that has been proven to help organizations of all sizes improve their software release cycles, software quality, security, and ability to get rapid feedback on product development. Over the past six years, Puppet, in partnership with DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA), have garnered more than 27,000 DevOps survey responses for the State of DevOps report, providing strong evidence that DevOps practices lead to higher IT performance. This higher performance delivers improved business outcomes, as measured by productivity, profitability, and market share.

Over the years, much has changed since the State of DevOps report started surveying IT and software professionals about DevOps. There was a lot of skepticism about the ability of DevOps to make real change in IT and in software development. Questions like: Isn't DevOps just another buzzword? Isn't DevOps just for big WebOps shops? Is it something enterprise can actually do? And most important of all: Does DevOps really make a difference?

Today, all types and sizes of organizations are embracing DevOps to deliver better software faster; attract and retain the best talent; and to future-proof their business. According to Gartner, by 2020, "half of the CIOs who have not transformed their teams' capabilities will be displaced from their organizations' digital leadership teams." There is no doubt that it is hard to pull off digital transformation, and it means deep investment at every level of the organization.

This year's report validated and expanded previous years' findings for what promotes high IT performance; the value of continuous delivery, and what affects it; the importance of architecture and team structure; and the relationship between lean product management and IT outcomes. We also discovered new findings about transformational leadership, DevOps in not-for-profits and organizations that use off-the-shelf software.

This year's key findings include:

Transformational leaders share five common characteristics that significantly shape an organization's culture and practices, leading to high performance

One of the exciting research focus areas this year was investigating the leadership characteristics that help drive high performance. The characteristics of transformational leadership (Rafferty and Griffin 2004) — vision, inspirational communication, intellectual stimulation, supportive leadership, and personal recognition — are highly correlated with IT performance. High-performing teams have leaders with the strongest behaviors across these dimensions. Low-performing teams reported the lowest levels of these traits. Teams that reported the least transformative leaders were half as likely to be high performers.

High-performing teams continue to achieve both faster throughput and better stability

The gap between high and low performers narrowed for throughput measures, as low performers reported improved deployment frequency and lead time for changes, compared to last year. However, the low performers reported slower recovery times and higher failure rates. We think that pressure to deploy faster and more often causes lower performers to pay insufficient attention to building in quality.

Loosely coupled architectures and teams are the strongest predictor of continuous delivery

If you want to achieve higher IT performance, start shifting to loosely coupled services — services that can be developed and released independently of each other — and loosely coupled teams, which are empowered to make changes. This shift will demand significant investment for those enterprises that require many handoffs and approvals to get work from the drawing board into production. The benefit of loosely coupled teams and services: higher throughput and higher quality and stability.

Automation is a huge boon to organizations

High performers automate significantly more of their configuration management, testing, deployments and change approval processes than other teams. The result is more time for innovation and a faster feedback cycle.

DevOps applies to all organizations

This year the report looked at both financial and non-financial measures of organizational performance. We found that high performers were twice as likely to achieve their own reported goals across both financial and non-financial measures. Last year's research showed that whether you're deploying commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) or microservices in the cloud, you can attain high performance with DevOps practices. This year, we've included guidance for how to rethink COTS in a DevOps world.

Lean product management drives higher organizational performance

Lean product management practices help teams ship features that customers actually want, more frequently. This faster delivery cycle lets teams experiment, creating a feedback loop with customers. The result? The entire organization benefits, as measured by profitability, productivity, and market share.

Over the past six years of surveying IT professionals, the DevOps Report has made many breakthrough discoveries about the relationships between IT performance, technical practices, cultural norms and organizational performance. In all our research, one thing has proved consistently true: Since nearly every company relies on software, IT performance is critical to any organization doing business today and is affected by many different factors, including leadership, tools, automation and a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Nigel Kersten is Chief Technical Strategist at Puppet

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