DevOps nirvana is still a distant destination for many: Survey

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DevOps – the collaboration between developers and operations teams to pump out software at a well-timed pace using automation and common tools – is an attractive proposition. However, IT teams are still a long way from DevOps nirvana; with most reporting in a recent survey, their efforts are not mature, hindering their progress.

That is the main finding of a questionnaire of 172 IT professionals and executives courtesy of LeanIX, which finds a significant gap between DevOps vision and reality. Despite all the talk of the past two decades about aligning things, many IT professionals report that they are still struggling to bridge this gap.

While 59% believe their companies value their efforts (59%), this still means that at least 40% are not creating valuable collaborations. “In addition, only 42% completely agree on whether IT and the business speak the same language,” the study authors point out. “The software development process can seem abstract and almost incomprehensible to some outside the IT or engineering departments. This leads to mutual misunderstanding and frustration on both sides.”

The lack of information or understanding extends to developer-customer relationships as well. The research shows that development teams have little insight into how customers use the software they make. The majority of respondents (70%) use support tickets as their most important metric. “While this statistic is easily accessible, it doesn’t always provide many useful insights,” the survey authors report.

In addition, two-thirds also track monthly active users, “a number with no real relationship to the software provided and its value to customers.” Less than half use other metrics such as job adoption, churn, return on investment, or net promoter score to understand customer satisfaction. 5% of respondents do not measure customer statistics at all.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

“Development teams generally have little understanding of how customers benefit from their work, and few are able to discuss these benefits with the company,” the authors report. “Having such insights at hand would improve collaboration between IT and the business. The more customer value metrics a development team tracks, the more positively that team views their working relationship with the business. Without knowing whether the intended value for the customer is being achieved or not, development teams are basically flying blind.”

The authors of LeanIX calculate that 53% work in a team with ‘low level’ DevOps based on maturity factors. Still, nearly 60% said they are flexible in adapting to changing customer needs and have established CI/CD pipelines. At the same time, less than half of engineers build, ship, or own their code or work on teams based on team topologies, indicating a lack of DevOps maturity.

Less than 20% of respondents said their development team could choose their own tech stack; 44% said they can partially do it, and 38% can’t do it at all. “Flexibility around tool choice is a central part of the DevOps culture as it enables organizations to respond more quickly to changing customer and business needs.”

Interestingly, there is a clear correlation between DevOps maturity and organizational size: the larger the organization, the lower the maturity level of the development team. “In other words, teams working in larger organizations have adopted fewer DevOps working practices,” the authors said. “The fact that organizations with more than 10,000 employers have a harder time with DevOps implementation stems from the fact that the DevOps concept itself requires a fundamental culture shift,” they suspect. “Large, complex organizations take longer than small, agile organizations to make this shift and navigate the changes it brings. In addition, large organizations often depend on many legacy systems whose role in the future of the organization is not always clear.”

The research also shows that reducing manual effort through automation is at the top of the list of obstacles for DevOps initiatives. “A majority also find breaking down silos (indicating the lack of a common knowledge base) and focusing on tasks (due to context switching) a bit challenging.”

“A little bit of DevOps isn’t enough,” the study authors conclude. “Agile practices and DevOps initiatives have revolutionized software development. However, this does not mean that the DevOps culture is already a living reality in most organizations. It is far from the case that companies have fully implemented the practices that come with DevOps. It is therefore not surprising that teams regularly encounter challenges in their daily work that stand in the way of effective software development.”

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