How to make your DevOps team elite performers

Oct 26, 2021 · 4 min read · Leave a comment
Sharon Gaudin GitLab profile

So your company has a DevOps team – great! – but are they elite performers or low performers?

There’s a chasm of difference between the two, according to the State of DevOps 2021 report from DORA, the DevOps Research and Assessment team at Google. It’s the tipping point in how resilient, efficient and reliable your team is, and that’s directly tied to your ability to help your business be more competitive. (To be transparent, GitLab was one of the many sponsors of the report, and we’ve incorporated some of the DORA metrics within our DevOps Platform so you can compare your highest and lowest-performing teams and see how much of the DevOps lifecycle each one is embracing.)

Bragging rights aside, a personal – and not insignificant – benefit of being on an elite DevOps team is that your company value, as well as your salary, would likely rise, as would your ability to be hired at a top-tier company.

So what does it mean to be an elite DevOps team and what does it take to get there? Let’s dive in:

The benefits of being an elite team

According to the DORA report there are specific things elite teams are able to consistently do. Here’s a look at some big goals:

Deploy more frequently

Elite performers deploy code 973 times more frequently than low performers, the survey notes. That’s right – 973 times more. Low performers say they require a change lead time greater than six months. In sharp contrast, elite teams only need an hour. We’ll do the math for you: Elite teams have a 6,570 times faster lead time from commit to deploy than low performers.

Recover quicker

There’s a similar broad gap between low performers and elite teams when it comes to stability. DORA notes the time it takes the elite group to restore service is less than one hour, compared to more than six months for the low performers.

Lower change failure rates

When it comes to change failure rates, there’s a 3 times difference between top and bottom performers. That means the elite group’s changes are a third less likely to fail.

DORA’s tips on how to become an elite team

Those are great goals but how do you make them a reality? These six tips will take you in the right direction

1. Make smart use of hybrid and multi-cloud environments

DORA survey respondents who use either hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environments were 1.6 times more likely to beat their company’s performance targets than those who did not use these cloud setups. Multi-cloud users, for instance, say they are able to leverage each cloud provider’s unique benefits and achieve greater availability.

2. How you implement the cloud matters

When it comes to being able to support business needs, how the cloud is adopted and implemented makes a big difference. There’s a lot of benefit to adhering to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) five essentials of cloud computing: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity or expansion, and measured service. DORA noted elite performers were 3.5 times more likely to have met all essential NIST cloud characteristics.

3. Let DevOps and SRE complement each other

Top DevOps professionals understand they don’t have to choose between DevOps and site reliability engineering (SRE). They work well together. “Elite performers are 2.1x as likely to report the use of SRE practices as their low-performing counterparts,” the DORA report notes. “But even teams operating at the highest levels have room for growth: Only 10% of elite respondents indicated that their teams have fully implemented every SRE practice we investigated.”

4. Make sure you’re documenting

There’s a direct correlation between creating documents, which include everything from manuals to code comments, to a DevOps team’s success. Solid documentation is accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive, searchable, well organized and clear. The report points out that teams with good documentation are 2.4 times more likely to meet or exceed their reliability targets, and 2.5 times more likely to fully leverage the cloud.

5. Build in security throughout development

Security can get a lot of lip service in DevOps, but the best teams know that high delivery and operational performance are directly linked to integrating security practices throughout their development process. Security reviews must be integrated into every phase and applied to all major features, security professionals must be included in planning and development, and security testing must be automated.

6. Pay attention to your team culture

In short, culture matters – a lot. Industry surveys consistently show that culture is one of the top drivers of IT performance. Professionals who have a sense of belonging and inclusion, and who work collaboratively and cross-functionally, produce higher software delivery and operational performance.

According to the DORA report, it’s clear that becoming an elite team of DevOps professionals is an attainable goal. The report notes a dramatic increase in the percentage of elite professionals this year: 26% (of 1,200 surveyed), up from just 7% in 2018.

It’s time to up your game or risk being left behind.

For a slightly different look at aspirational DevOps results, read our 2021 Global DevSecOps Survey.

“Where does your DevOps team rank - elite, low performing or somewhere in between? Here's what the #DORA Report has to say about the benefits of an elite DevOps practice.” – Sharon Gaudin

Click to tweet

Git is a trademark of Software Freedom Conservancy and our use of 'GitLab' is under license