How do you ensure a successful DevOps implementation?

Importance of measuring the DevOps success.

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Today, DevOps is widely regarded as an essential component of the delivery IT process. Put simply, DevOps allows to deliver faster. Features get to customers quicker, more business value is generated, and ultimately, revenue grows. To succeed, good communication and alignment against shared and measurable goals is critical.

DevOps without measurement or without measuring the right things is a failure. DevOps is all about continuous learning and improvement, and a constant effort to uncover and solve problems around the lifecycle. Monitoring is therefore of vital importance – both in terms of the released product, team engagement but also to ensure oversight over development processes. The right metrics can ensure that applications reach their peak potential.

The question “how will you measure this?” is at the core of any good engineering culture. The following Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are worth tracking as you strive to improve both efficiency and user experience.

The top 7 KPIs

KPIs are complicated by the fact that this methodology has no formal framework, thus the definition of progress can vary between organizations. However, there are common metrics and KPIs that should keep a DevOps project on track.

Ideally, DevOps Metrics and KPI’s present relevant information in a clear and easily understandable way. Together, they should provide an overview of the deployment and change process and where improvements can be made.

KPIs represent a kind of measurement or metrics that indicates whether a team or initiative is successful. KPIs generally need to align with a specific goal, be measurable, and fit within a time-box.

Here, we’ll discuss seven of the most critical KPIs, and move on to explore how they can be integrated with reporting and visualizations.

1. Business Success

If you wish to choose one single KPI for DevOps, it must be business success for sure. The highest priority of any organization is to satisfy their customers through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Customer satisfaction is one example of a metrics for software delivery that relates to business goals.

For instance, software can be valuable to the company when it helps grow the customer base, increase revenue, reduce customer service costs, or any number of other objectives.

Depending on your industry, company maturity, market share, and other variables, key performance indicators that your software could potentially influence include:

  • average revenue per user,
  • conversion rates,
  • customer acquisition costs,
  • rate of customer churn,
  • recurring or incremental revenue,
  • renewals and/or subscriptions.

Agreeing on the business goals for your software helps everyone on the DevOps team relate what they’re doing back to a measurable set of indicators of success. This data-driven approach improves prioritization and decision-making relative to the choice of the features to include in your software, the determination of resource allocation and the size of your DevOps team.

2. Customer Experience

A key characteristic and advantage of any Agile or DevOps approach is customer-centricity. In order to facilitate this cultural transition to a focus-on-customer value, it is crucial to create product or service owner roles in the organization, and enable them to carry out their mission. This enablement means both empowering these new roles with rights and responsibilities, and measuring their performance tied to customer satisfaction KPIs.

Indeed, you can’t know whether your customer experience is defective unless you measure and track the right KPIs.

Customer experience KPIs could include:

  • amount of time spent in app,
  • customer satisfaction or customer net promoter score,
  • frequency of key transactions,
  • funnel/conversion rates,
  • perceived response times of key transactions,
  • number of visits per user/per week,
  • user growth rates.

3. Deployment Frequency

If the primary goal of DevOps is to increase development and deployment velocity, then one the key metrics of success is how frequently deployments take place.

As teams begin to adopt DevOps, frequency should increase. If high frequency results in increased deployment time or a higher failure rate, it may be worth holding off on deployment increases until existing issues can be resolved.

4. Change lead time

In a successful DevOps culture, new features, patches, bug fixes, and security remediations should all be able to proceed from creation to delivery with minimal lead time.Any change is tied directly to a uniquely identified ticket or work item with a unified work backlog for dev and ops. The deployment system (such as a CI/CD pipeline) reads the ticket identifier, and by use of webhooks, it can automatically close any work item that it successfully deploys. Then it’s simply a matter of measuring the total time elapsed between the “new/open” and “closed” status of all work items. Change lead time is the time it takes to go from code committed to code successfully running in production.

You can obtain this metrics by capturing the time at which each revision is initiated and then updating the row with the time at which that same revision successfully runs the last action of the deployment pipeline. By comparing these numbers, you get the lead time for changes. By averaging these numbers over a period of time, you obtain the mean time lead for changes to production.

5. Defect Volume and Escape Rate

The core metrics we’re worried about is the number of defects. This metrics gives insights into the quality of your software deployments and the effectiveness of the test coverage by your QA team.

Note that aiming for 100% defect-free operation can actually be counterintuitive.

6. SLA

To increase transparency, most companies operate accordind to Service Level Agreements. These highlight commitments between providers and clients. SLA compliance KPIs provide the necessary accountability to ensure that SLAs or other expectations are met.

A service level agreement (SLA) can be soft, like an idealized goal, or conversely, a legal, contractual obligation to maintain some level of availability over a given time window.

7. Application Performance

Application performance is something that might be included in the SLA. Looking for performance issues, obscure errors, and other potential problems before, during and after deployment of an application are good practices. This is crucial for DevOps success since the performance of parameters such as web service calls, SQL queries, and other dependencies can change after application deployment.

The application performance metrics allows you to visualize and pre-empt these problems, and prevent roadblock later on.

Reporting and Visualizing KPIs

With a refined list of KPIs, a solid SLA, and the monitoring and collection infrastructure in place, you’ve got the data to prove whether DevOps has successfully delivered on its promises.

An important goal in DevOps is to make the work “visible”.

1. Kanban boards

The Kanban method can help DevOps teams put some order into their daily work and the lean theory can definitely be leveraged to improve the flow across the DevOps teams.

Kanban boards provide an excellent way to break down a seemingly complex project into easily digestible pieces of data. Ticketing software such as Jira comes with Kanban built in functionality, while tools such as Trello or Asana could be integrated with existing workflows.

For more ad hoc status queries, tools like Slack offer a variety of integrations enabling “ChatOps,” providing interactive status engagement via bots and reporting tools.

Kanban combines multiple streams into one, gives leverage to say NO and improves flow team communication.

With this, there is a board that divides a project into certain categories like user stories, to do’s, testing and so on. This provides a visual way to understand the progress.

2. Dashboarding solutions

For more quantifiable KPI metrics, a variety of dashboarding solutions are available. Tools like Datadog, Grafana, and Tableau offer comprehensive solutions for visualizing a broad variety of business and technical performance metrics. Most of the solutions have a number of integrations with other SaaS platforms, tools, and APIs.

DevOps as an opportunity to deliver business value

DevOps has the potential to deliver an immense amount of business value. DevOps metrics are an effective way to measure its effectiveness in development, deployment, and production within an organization. However, while key metrics are used to measure high performing DevOps teams, they should also be considered within broader organizational goals such as profit, number of customers, quality of product and customer service. The key to realizing the value of DevOps is to make it measurable and visualize it, to ensure all stakeholders can easily and effectively see what’s driving it.

Jean-François SCHOONHEERE
CEO & co-founder Stroople

👉 At Stroople, our philosophy is to bring together the best of technology and collective intelligence approaches! From quick projects to major strategic transformations, we work with you by fostering co-creation, agile approaches, and developing everyone’s talents. Are you looking for a positive impact partner that takes your ambition to the next level? Get in touch with us!

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