Improving Software Performance: Nathen Harvey, DORA Developer
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Improving Software Performance: Nathen Harvey, DORA Developer Advocate, on the Importance of Digging Deeper Beyond DORA Metrics

April 4th, 2023
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“The DORA metrics are important, and they can drive a lot of good things, but they aren’t sufficient. You have to dig deeper. “

The Waydev team recently had the opportunity to talk to Nathen Harvey, developer advocate at Google Cloud and DORA (DevOps Research and Assessment). We discussed the common interest in advancing DORA Metrics and helping organizations improve their software delivery and operational performance. In his role at Google Cloud, Nathen focuses his attention on DORA and advancing the research program in the field of software delivery performance. He strives to make the research actionable and helps teams put it into practice.

Nathen has a strong interest in improving software delivery and operational performance. He believes that while DORA metrics are important and drive many positive outcomes, they are not sufficient on their own, and organizations need to dig deeper to achieve better software performance.

Below is an excerpt from our conversation with Nathen, diving into his role at Google Cloud and his focus on DORA Metrics.

Nathen Harvey: I’m a developer advocate with Google Cloud and I focus most of my attention on DORA and helping advance the research program. More importantly, I help make the research actionable and help teams put that research into practice. 

My team and I focus on making the academically rigorous research actionable and helping teams apply the insights to their own context.  We are working to provide a space for the community of practitioners, researchers, and leaders in this space – 

We continually run into folks that are using DORA in some way to help drive their own internal transformation and to drive productivity. We see lots of pitfalls,  lots of success, and a lot of everything in the middle. 

As we’ve built out this community, we’re seeing a lot of real engagement that has us really excited. It’s doing the things that we had hoped it would. 

We’re continually finding more and more tooling out there that’s helping teams expose and visualize their DORA metrics alongside a host of other metrics. Looking at DORA’s four key measures of software delivery performance is important but is not telling the entire story. Having tools like Waydev, where we can take a bigger picture and look at more data, helps provide a more comprehensive view of how a team is doing. 

I see a lot of teams that say – “The way we’re going to get better is by looking at these four measures.” Truly embracing the findings of DORA requires going beyond those four keys.

How do you go beyond those four measures and look at the capabilities, and how do you really help your team improve? As a vendor that’s putting out these DORA metrics, I want to come along with you to help share that message: The DORA metrics are important, and they can drive a lot of good things, but they aren’t sufficient. You have to dig deeper. 

Alex Circei: We are big fans of the DORA Metrics 

Back in 2017, we started with the code level metrics; then we moved to PRs, then we added tickets, then DevOps metrics, then DORA Metrics. Now, I think we are capturing the whole spectrum of development. 

I see a lot of people are adding DORA Metrics to their companies right now, and we are really happy about this. 

Nathen Harvey: We are, too, and that was part of our motivation for building out  DORA.Community.  We use a community calendar to amplify events in the community that are talking about DORA. We also hold regular community discussions like the one we had recently with Dr. Nicole Forsgren, who helped start the DORA research program. Although she’s no longer on the DORA, her research into developer productivity continues with recent publications like the SPACE framework. She joined the community discussion, and we talked about how DORA and SPACE are complementary to one another.

The whole premise of DORA is that we talk about these four keys, but it’s actually about how we help teams adopt a practice of continuous improvement. It starts by knowing where you are, and then how you identify the bottlenecks, and what’s holding you back.

The Cycle Time can now give us a direction to look at – “let’s investigate there and figure out what capabilities we have strengths in and what capabilities we have weaknesses in. Let’s make one change across teams, and let’s watch those numbers improve.”

One of the things that I really like about Waydev is not only are you giving the benchmark, but you’re also showing the direction. Benchmarking is great, but you are also showing improvement. “We went 73% down, or we made 10% improvement – we used to have 90 hours, and now we’re slipping”. I’m always more interested in a team getting better than how a team compares to other teams or an industry benchmark. I want to see that forward progress.

Too often, I see teams spending months building dashboards to get a more precise view into the four key metrics for software delivery performance. They end up with pretty dashboards but without necessarily making any actual improvements to their capabilities. They’ve invested a lot of engineering capacity and energy into getting better visibility but little capacity into actually improving. Of course, you need that visibility, but if you had to choose visibility or getting better, commit to getting better every time! I want you to be able to spend more of your energy and effort on improving than on validating that you’ve improved. That’s why tools like Waydev make that much simpler for the teams.

In this interview, we’ve seen how both Nathen from Google Cloud and Waydev share a common goal of advancing DORA metrics and helping organizations improve their software delivery and operational performance. This signals an exciting future for organizations looking to optimize their development processes and achieve better results.

In conclusion, Nathen Harvey’s statement about DORA metrics highlights the importance of going beyond the key measures and digging deeper to truly understand and improve performance. The Waydev team’s conversation with Nathen further emphasizes the significance of continuous improvement and the value of tools like Waydev in helping engineering teams achieve better visibility and progress. The DORA Community and its various resources serve as a testament to the growing interest in and importance of advancing DevOps Research and Assessment.

Google Cloud is a suite of cloud computing services offered by Google. These services include computing, storage, networking, data analytics, machine learning, and more. Google Cloud enables businesses and organizations to run their applications and workloads on Google’s infrastructure, providing secure and scalable solutions for a variety of industries and use cases.

Waydev is the leader in the Engineering Intelligence market. It offers engineering leaders visibility into their teams’ DORA Metrics, their Cycle Time, Sprint progress, and Project Costs, and the ability for leaders to customize their own custom dashboards. It does this by connecting to the engineering tool stack (GitHub, CircleCI, Jira, etc.) to accelerate velocity and align with business initiatives.

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