Devops Maturity Model
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Using DORA Metrics in Assessing DevOps Maturity Levels

April 13th, 2023
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In today’s SaaS world, software teams face multiple challenges in delivering top-notch quality. To tackle these challenges head-on, organizations adopt the DevOps maturity model approach—a way to boost deployment velocity and quality. While there’s no one-size-fits-all path to DevOps, understanding DevOps maturity models can be a convenient roadmap, helping you measure progress and stay on track in your DevOps journey.

DevOps maturity model is a framework that outlines the general stages an organization goes through when adopting DevOps principles and practices. The model consists of five levels of maturity, ranging from Initial to Optimizing, each level building upon the previous one. These models help determine how far along organizations are on their DevOps journey and what steps they should take to reach higher levels of DevOps maturity. Measuring DevOps maturity levels is important because it helps organizations understand their current state of DevOps practices and determine areas for improvement.

DevOps refers to all the philosophies, modern tools, and practices that are used to automate and integrate the necessary processes for developing software in a highly efficient way. It speaks about continuously optimizing a more collaborative work environment who’s ultimate goal is faster and more valuable product delivery.  

The basis of  DevOps is the DORA model – DevOps Research and Assessment, a concept developed by industry researchers Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim. After years of research, they put together an annual report that comprises industry benchmarks using data collected from more than 30,000 industry professionals. By using these averages and the 4 DORA metrics, tech organizations can measure their teams’ performance and understand what steps they need to go up the DevOps maturity scale.  

By using Waydev’s all-in-one DORA Metrics Dashboard you too can see whether your teams are elite or lower performers and how to improve on their results, by streamlining processes and using DevOps best practices. The ultimate goal is to align your product development and monitoring processes with the DevOps product-approach maturity model. In this article we will define the characteristics of the DevOps maturity model, the five stages that your teams can reach, and ways of continuously assessing, measuring, and improving your DevOps practices.  

Benefits of Adopting DevOps Practices

The advantages of adopting DevOps practices within your organization go far beyond team level and it can have a positive impact on your entire business. It’s about implementing a different mindset based on process improvement, work culture, and aligning business goals to DevOps practices. Here are some of the main benefits of adopting DevOps practices within your company:

1. Faster Time-To-Market

Adopting the DevOps maturity model helps organizations release software faster and more frequently. This is a direct consequence of a better collaboration between the teams that develop software and those that release and monitor the features. The work pieces go through the motions quicker because the handoffs and feedback from customers happen in a more efficient and transparent manner. 

2. Improved Quality

DevOps practices also entail better quality and reliability for your software products. By testing features early in the development process, you can identify bugs and fix them before release, causing less problems for the end-customers. CI/CD practices can also improve the reliability of your releases, making for a better value of your products.  

3. Increased Collaboration

Increased collaboration between teams that translates through transparency, faster handoffs and less waiting time will lead to a more efficient deployment process. In DevOps practices, this means breaking down silos and bringing together teams of development and operations that can now work together in a more cohesive way. The advantages are many – faster delivery, better communication regarding customer requested fixes and necessary adjustments, and less waste of time and resources. 

4. Greater Efficiency

The maturity model DevOps encourages automation as a direct way to achieve better team efficiency. By giving your teams modern tools and practices that encourage as many automated processes as possible, you free their time for more difficult tasks and finding innovative solutions. Less manual input means less frustration and wasted time by your engineers. 

5. Increased Customer Satisfaction

A better communication between developers that implement changes and operations teams that monitor them and send feedback from customers results in meeting customers needs and expectations better. Adopting DevOps practices encourages continuous feedback and integration of new features so the end-customers get the best value. 

The Five Levels of DevOps Maturity Model

When adopting a DevOps maturity model you have to first assess where you are now in terms of delivery processes and practices. This way you can get a good understanding of what your starting point is and what you’re working with. The process of transitioning to a DevOps maturity level is a complex one and it includes 5 stages of maturity levels that evolve from one to the next. 

Levels of DevOps Maturity Model

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1. Initial

The initial stage is only the starting point in the DevOps adoption process, and the tech organization hasn’t yet adopted any of the specific practices for this model. Generally, the organizations that are in this phase can be characterized by teams that still work in silos without having much collaboration or transparency in the deployment and maintaining applications process. They still use more traditional frameworks or workflows, such as the Waterfall approach.

Working in this manner means the teams are not taking advantage of modern tools or automation processes, given that they are still using manual input for testing or other stages of the deployment or monitoring processes, which wastes both time and resources for the teams. 

Delays and bottlenecks in the delivery and application management are frequent because of dependencies or too many handoff steps. 

2. Managed

The second phase of the DevOps maturity model happens when teams start to acknowledge what are the necessary practices they need to adopt to make the switch to a new workflow. But the changes have not yet been implemented at this stage and there is some resistance in revolutionizing the day-to-day processes. 

At this level, the development and operations teams have not yet been integrated and are still working in silos. This entails there is still a stringent need for full transparency and collaboration between the different departments to reach an improved maturity level. 

But nevertheless, this is a good starting point where the various teams start to understand what it takes to work together and start doing so at a small scale to test the waters. The teams are just beginning to automate some processes and test more to reduce the release associated risks. 

3. Defined

When they are in their third DevOps maturity level, organizations have already integrated their development and operations teams and are introducing standardized processes across all teams. The focus here is automating as many processes as possible, using practices such as continuous integrations and continuous deployment. The teams now understand what it means to work collaboratively and have transparent steps during the SDLC lifecycle and monitoring stages. 

During this stage there is a clear mindset shift from a fragmented, siloed workflow to a more efficient flow who’s main objective is optimizing the product for the end-customer.  The work pieces at this stage are organized in smaller batches resulting in faster and more frequent deployments, less risks, and less downtime when bugs arise because it’s easier to identify and fix issues. 

4. Measured

In the fourth stage, your DevOps model has reached maturity and the teams are working according to this framework’s principles and best practices. An organization that has reached this level of maturity can now start to measure the success of their implemented model through specific metrics and use the collected data to improve their processes. 

All teams across departments now work collaboratively keeping the focus on offering the best end-user experiences as fast as possible. The work model is characterized by standardized practices, automated processes and testing that reduce manual input, risks, and resource waste. The types of workflows associated with DevOps maturity level falls into the category of Agile approach and Lean practices. 

5. Optimized

The organizations that are in the fifth stage of DevOps model have reached full maturity within applying this framework to their everyday practices. They are now using feedback loops to drive innovations and continue to improve their processes using specific data collected with metrics. 

Once the DevOps model has attained this maturity level, this will have an impact on the entire deployment and monitoring processes. The teams are highly efficient in releasing new code multiple times a day, taking full advantage of automated processes for delivering better quality and stable code. The downtime is also reduced to a minimum due to testing and small batches of work. Although this is the highest level of maturity, your organization should work constantly towards continuously improving the implementation of this model to maintain the results and optimize performance. 

Metrics and Areas Where DevOps Maturity Levels Can Be Assessed

In order to continuously improve the DevOps maturity level you need to be able to measure its progress and understand what areas are working optimally and where adjustments are needed. This is where metrics come into play, as they help you establish a data-driven evaluation of the stage of DevOps maturity level and how to maintain and constantly grow on the obtained results. 

The best way to assess the level of DevOps maturity within your organization is by using the four DORA Metrics: Deployment Frequency, Lead Time for Changes, Change Failure Rate, and Mean Time to Recovery. These metrics came about to measure DevOps teams’ performance in terms of productivity and efficiency in delivering quality code fast and meeting the industry’s ever changing requirements. 

Let’s break down the 4 DORA Metrics and what they can show us in terms of DevOps maturity: 

1. Deployment Frequency (DF)

Deployment Frequency is a metric that tells you how often successful code is released into production. It is a velocity metric and it measures performance by showing your DevOps teams’ capabilities to deploy quality code that doesn’t result in bug fixes and downtime. The frequency of these deliveries give you the measure of efficiency – elite teams release code multiple times a day, while medium and lower performance ones have a rate of once per week – once per 6 months. 

By measuring DF with tools such as Waydev, you can keep track of your DevOps teams’  deployment success rate and see where you are on the DevOps maturity scale. This can also help identify bottlenecks and areas where the process is not as smooth through the duration of the product’s lifecycle, giving you a clear path to data-driven decisions. 

2. Lead Time for Changes (LTTC)

Lead Time for Changes is a DORA velocity metric that assesses the time it takes between the first commit until the code reaches production. When implemented successfully, DevOps practices will result in a lower LTTC value, meaning that the code delivery process is fast. This speaks to the efficiency of the DevOps teams to deliver value to customers as quickly as possible. 

Mature DevOps teams will maintain a low LTTC rate by delivering new code in less than one day, while medium performers will take up to a month, and low performers – 6 months. By continuously measuring LTTC, you can have a better view on how your DevOps teams are performing and if you’re taking full advantage of the specific DevOps maturity model best practices. 

3. Change Failure Rate (CFR)

Change Failure Rate speaks about the stability of your code release process because it shows how much of the code changes that reach production result in failures. The CFR is expressed in percentages and it’s a quality metric, as it shows the stability of the code changes released by your DevOps teams. 

Measuring your CFR is essential to understanding your DevOps teams’ maturity in terms of stability of code and whether code quality is sacrificed for speed. 

4. Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR)

Mean Time to Recovery is a quality metric that shows how much time it takes to recover service in downtime. In other words, this metric evaluates the stability of your code and what is your DevOps teams’ response when an issue causes the system to fall. High-performing teams will have a lower incident rate because their work is divided into small batches that go through proper testing before deployment, and they have efficient monitoring tools, and a quick-response plan in case of bugs. 

The lower the MTTR is, the more you know that you have elite teams that have reached a deep DevOps maturity level, making full use of this model’s benefits. The highest level teams will fix issues in less than 1 hour, medium teams in more than 1 day, while lower performing teams have a MTTR of 1 week – 1 month. Waydev’s DORA dashboards can help you track this metric to get a more comprehensive picture of how your DevOps teams are performing in producing reliable code. 

Areas to Focus On for the DevOps Maturity Levels

To get the measure of your teams’ DevOps maturity level you need to focus your attention on some specific areas. The process of conducting a thorough assessment may seem overwhelming at first, but narrowing down the search to specific target areas helps. 

Here are the main areas where to focus on when conducting your DevOps maturity model assessment:

  1. Culture

Culture is a key point to cover when speaking about DevOps maturity model, because it’s about the mindset and functioning of your teams. Their capacity of working in a collaborative, transparent, and unified way is the basis of streamlining the deployment and monitoring processes throughout a product’s lifecycle. 

Another aspect of culture in a DevOps maturity environment refers to whether the general mindset is customer-focused and product-focused, where the objective is to deliver value to customers fast. In order to achieve DevOps highest maturity levels, every member of the development, operations and management teams need to align their goals to this specific culture. 

  1. Automation

Automating your processes through CI/CD pipelines and large scale testing are all practices that thrive within the DevOps maturity framework. So a great area to focus on when assessing your maturity level is understanding whether automation is sufficiently used or if manual work is still a big part of your daily processes.  Automating repetitive tasks will result in more free time for team members to focus on finding innovative solutions and more reliable software. 

  1. Process

The process element refers to the way work pieces are split into specific steps and tackled in order to complete a product’s lifecycle. In a DevOps environment, the processes need to be standardized and well defined in order to become as efficient as possible. The key points in a mature DevOps framework are characterized by small pieces of work that are easy to handle, with full transparency of their stage, and reducing unnecessary steps that cause delays and resource waste. 

  1. Collaboration

Collaboration is an important pillar of the DevOps model and a key team performance indicator. Teams that can work together seamlessly have a better chance of streamlining their processes, finding better solutions for driving progress, since there are many skill sets that come together for the same common goal. 

  1. Technology

Choosing the right technology for the specific environment your teams work in is another key area of interest in DevOps framework. The technology and tools must be selected keeping in mind what best serves your teams to thrive and reach their full productivity potential. Modern tools will help DevOps teams to develop and continuously monitor products, helping to achieve your main goals – delivering valuable software for the end-customers as quickly as possible. 

How to Conduct a Devops Maturity Model Assessment?

When you want to assess where your teams are in relation to the DevOps maturity model, the best way to do so is to compare what you have with what the standard is. This evaluation means understanding what the 5 maturity levels’ main characteristics are so you know what the objectives are. This helps create a roadmap of what your DevOps journey should be and what are the key points to cover to get there or to continuously optimize your practices and processes. 

Assessing your DevOps maturity level can be done using a combination of methods. The main objective here is to get a broader view of the state of affairs and make data-based comparisons. Here is a breakdown of the main ways to conduct a DevOps maturity analysis:

  1. Interviews – conduct surveys with the team members to understand if their practices are in line with the fast-pace product oriented approach specific to the DevOps maturity model. 
  1. Self-assessments – ask the teams involved to self-assess where they are in terms of day-to-day practices and processes and how this aligns with business goals. 
  1. Data analysis through metrics – this implies taking into account specific performance metrics such as the previously mentioned DORA Metrics. By using clear data and comparing it to industry averages, you get a sense of where you’re at and where you should be in terms of performance indicators.  

The Importance of the DORA Maturity Model

The DORA maturity model helps you assess the level of DevOps maturity reached by your organization, by using specific performance metrics. These metrics can give you a measure of your day-to-day processes and practices that are used to develop, release, and monitor software that benefits the customer. Following the lines of the DevOps maturity model can help you understand where you are on your path to adopting this framework and what it takes to fully align your development and operations teams to these principles. 

Once you’ve established the DevOps maturity model as your main target, it’s crucial to measure and assess the model in order to identify problem areas, continuously improve your practices and processes. By doing so, your organization can align to the very competitive tech market, be aware of industry benchmarks, and nurture efficient and high-performing teams within the DevOps principles. 

A great way to get clear data of your DevOps maturity level is by using industry specific metrics, like the four DORA Metrics with tools such as Waydev. Our all-in-one DORA Metrics Dashboard is fed automated data without any manual input and it reunites the four metrics for understanding DevOps teams’ performance. This will help you directly assess where you’re situated in the DevOps maturity scale and identify problem areas where your teams are falling short and need a different approach to succeed. 

Schedule a demo today to understand how we can help you on your path of implementing and optimizing your DevOps maturity model. 

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