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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Why go faster? 5 ways DevOps delivers value

We’ve all heard plenty of discussion about DevOps, usually accompanied by a host of other buzzwords. Lean this. Continuous delivery that. Deploying to production a gazillion times a minute.  Culture, culture, culture. As a result, it’s easy to disregard DevOps as just the latest fad or overhyped technology craze that ultimately fails to deliver on its promises.

In truth, there are some pretty eye-popping numbers grounded in research that show how certain organizations are getting remarkably better IT and organizational outcomes than their peers using particular practices. As shown in the 2018 State of DevOps Report, high-performing organizations are both faster and more stable than their peers. To be specific, high performers have: 

  • 46x more frequent deploys.
  • 2,555x faster lead times.
  • 2,604x faster mean time to recover.
  • 7x lower change failure rate.

These high-performing organizations are producing much more speed to value than their peers. They are delivering features faster and more frequently to their stakeholders and doing it with orders of magnitude more stability.

These results might seem like they apply only to Silicon Valley unicorn organizations. To the contrary, some federal agencies are deploying to production up to 40 times a day and can go from committing a code change to running in production in less than 20 minutes.

Many executives immediately appreciate the value of this speed. Others need a little more convincing. When they hear these case studies and statistics, they ask, “Why would I want to go that fast? We don’t need to do that. Our business doesn’t move that fast and our users don’t either.”

Here are five reasons why agencies should consider going faster than they are now.

1. Going faster reduces operational risk. How long did it take to recover from the last service outage? How long did it take to remediate the last critical security vulnerability discovered? Just as important, how long did it take to detect the outage or vulnerability? The longer the outage goes and the longer the vulnerability exists, the more risk and negative impact. The golden metric here is “mean time to recover.” High performers can recover in hours or minutes. 

2. Going faster reduces delivery risk. When it comes to delivery, the best way to mitigate risk is putting working software in production. The longer something remains a “work in progress,” the more risk there is of waste. Think of WIP like inventory -- the investment has been made, but it’s not producing any value yet. The longer something stays in inventory, the more risk of spoilage, obsolescence and rework. The golden metric here is “lead time” -- how long it takes to make a change. High performers can make changes in hours or minutes.

3. Going faster reduces mission risk.Going faster means agencies can respond to changing mission needs with more agility. We live in a world with growing complexity and an increasing pace of change. Agencies that can go faster have more agility in meeting those complex, changing needs. They also earn the ability to experiment with different approaches to meet a need to figure out which one works best. That ability to experiment is hugely valuable when dealing with the risk that comes from complexity and change.

4. Going faster delivers more value to the mission … faster. The more developers deliver into production and the faster they do it, the more value they create for the mission. The golden metrics here are “deployment frequency” and “lead time” -- how many changes can be made in a given period of time and how long it takes to make those changes. High performers deploy multiple times per day on demand with lead times measured in hours or minutes. 

5. Going faster improves employee retention and recruiting. All staff members want to feel their work is having an impact. By going faster, employees can now get more work done in less time and see the impact of that work sooner than they could before. This improves employee engagement and increases the agency's attractiveness to potential recruits. Current employees are also more likely to recommend the organization as a great place to work to people they know, which improves retention and recruiting even more.

Agencies can't simply decide to go faster, of course.  But they should certainly consider working DevOps into their IT workflows to reduce risk and deliver value to the mission.

About the Author

Jeff Gallimore is partner and co-founder at Excella.

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