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Culture, not tech, the DevOps stumbling block

Supportive leadership is critical factor in widespread success and evolutionary improvement in DevOps.

  • 21 Jul 2021 Posted in

Puppet, the industry standard for infrastructure automation, has released the findings of the 2021 State of DevOps Report. This year, over 2,650 IT, development, and information security professionals took the survey, providing insight into the chasm between organizations with highly evolved DevOps practices and those whose DevOps evolution has plateaued.

Puppet conducted the first State of DevOps Report ten years ago when DevOps adoption was not ubiquitous. A decade later, 83 percent of IT decision makers report their organizations are implementing DevOps practices to unlock higher business value through better quality software, faster delivery times, more secure systems and the codification of principles. However, within that 83 percent are distinct cohorts of organizations whose success with DevOps is contingent upon a number of factors, revealed in the report.

The 2021 report found that many organizations in the middle stages of their DevOps evolution have plateaued. Among these mid-evolution teams, cultural blockers remain the biggest hurdle to reaching DevOps success. The most common culture blockers at the mid-level include a culture that discourages risk (21 percent), unclear responsibilities (20 percent), de-prioritizing fast flow optimization (18 percent), and insufficient feedback loops (17 percent).

Report findings also revealed:

● Organizational structure and team dynamics matter. The report found 91 percent of highly evolved teams report a clear understanding of their responsibilities to other teams compared to only 32 percent of low-evolution teams.

● Almost all survey respondents are using the cloud, but most are using it poorly. Sixty-five percent of mid-evolution firms report using the cloud, yet only 20 percent use the cloud to its full potential. High-evolution teams use cloud better with 57 percent satisfying all five NIST cloud capability metrics compared to only 5 percent of low-evolution respondents.

● Being good at automation does not make a firm good at DevOps. Ninety percent of high-evolution teams have automated their most repetitive tasks compared to only 67 percent of mid-level and 25 percent of low-evolution.

● DevOps success includes stronger security—or in this case, DevSecOps. Among highly evolved organizations, 51 percent integrate security into requirements, 61 percent into design, 53 percent into build, and 52 percent into testing in contrast to mid-level organizations in which security becomes involved only when there is a scheduled audit of production or an issue reported in production.

● The most highly evolved firms benefit from top-down enablement of bottom-up transformation. Fewer than two percent of high-level organizations report resistance to DevOps from the executive level compared to 13 percent of those in the low-evolution firms.

To observe the ten-year anniversary of the report, Puppet invited a wider group of DevOps influencers to respond to the data and build on recommendations for what organizations can do to climb out of the sticky middle. Contributors include the authors of the Team Topologies model, which has been immensely influential in the industry.

“A standout finding from the report is the importance of team identities; organizations with less ambiguous team names with more clearly defined team responsibilities are more likely to be more highly evolved in their DevOps journey,” said Nigel Kersten, Field CTO at Puppet. “The title ‘DevOps team’ is misleading, as it allows many organizations to assume that having a DevOps team means they are doing DevOps correctly. We recommend less ambiguously named stream-aligned and platform teams, as seen in the Team Topologies model, which create a more well-defined path to achieving DevOps success at scale.”

“In ten years, we've gone from hype to practice in the way technology is delivered, all with the data to show what we've learned along the way. That's some quality iteration,” said Michael Stahnke, VP of Platform, CircleCI. “The final stage of DevOps evolution is often the building of a highly leveraged platform and team structure, incorporating self-service capabilities beyond infrastructure. When it's really done well, the word ‘DevOps’ tends to fall away as it's just how work is happening.”

Further key determinants for mid-evolution organizations to achieve DevOps success at scale include a successful platform team approach, organizational buy-in from both managers and practitioners, a strong automation practice, and a willingness to accept risk and invest for the future.


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