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Tracking DevOps metrics can increase business agility

Tracking DevOps metrics is one of three steps that can help improve the application development process and increase business agility.

Alongside Linux containers and the ever-present cloud computing, DevOps is among today's hottest IT topics. The Google Trends graph below illustrates the meteoric rise in relative search volume for "DevOps" over the past few years and captures the hype surrounding this software development approach.

DevOps search volume

The growing search volume for DevOps (Source: Google Trends, June 12, 2015)

But occasionally the real point of the methodology gets lost in all this noise. DevOps isn't simply about encouraging developers and IT operations staff to collaborate. It's about increasing business agility.

The hard truth around application development is that many organizations aren't agile enough to compete effectively in today's rapidly changing markets. Often, these organizations rely on traditional IT practices like the waterfall model or simply can't get reliable updates out fast enough. Typically, these same organizations, due to their pre-existing development challenges, also are hesitant to adopt new approaches like DevOps.

The beauty of DevOps, however, is that it's not an all-or-nothing practice. For IT professionals looking to see if DevOps is right for them or for organizations considering adopting the practice, here are three early DevOps-inspired steps that start to increase business agility.

1. Track DevOps metrics

Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, educator and author of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, once said, "What gets measured gets managed." According to Drucker, as soon as you start monitoring something, you magically see improvement in that area.

Inform your team and start tracking a few key DevOps metrics. You'll get Drucker's magical performance boost and establish a baseline for assessing to what extent any additional steps you take impact your organization's agility.

Devops.com contributors Payal Chakravarty and David Shackelford recommend the following DevOps metrics:

  • Lead time to develop an application: Helps you understand how quickly you develop applications
  • Percentage of failed deployments: Tells you whether they deploy successfully
  • Customer ticket volume: Indicates how many issues crop up
  • Mean time to recovery: Shows how long it takes to recover from an application bug or failure
  • User volume: Indicates how useful your users find your applications

These metrics might appear to contain self-defeating trade-offs (e.g., the faster you develop, the more likely you are to make a mistake), but DevOps makes it possible to score well on all five agility metrics.

2. Tackle new projects using 'Mode 2'

Coined by Gartner, "bimodal IT" is an IT strategy that simultaneously embraces traditional IT ("Mode 1"), which emphasizes reliability and accuracy, and modern IT ("Mode 2"), which emphasizes speed and agility. In other words, with a bimodal IT approach, you don't need to abandon your existing Mode 1 applications and infrastructure to gain the benefits of Mode 2.

But how do you decide which projects should use Mode 1 versus 2? The bimodal IT best practices from Gartner recommend Mode 1 for systems of record and Mode 2 for systems of differentiation and innovation.

Over time, as you find opportunities to employ Mode 2, your business's ability to respond quickly to market dynamics should improve.

3. Explore DevOps-friendly PaaS technology

Now that you're completing some of your organization's projects with greater speed and agility, you should consider platform-as-a-service (PaaS), which further facilitates a DevOps approach.

PaaS is a cloud-based platform that makes it easier for developers and IT operations to build, deploy and manage applications and avoid many infrastructure-related challenges and expenses. IT also can use PaaS technology to collaborate and iterate more tightly with line-of-business managers.

Tracking DevOps metrics, using Mode 2 for new projects and exploring PaaS implementation are effective entry-level steps you can take to increase agility. Act today and soon your organization should find itself better positioned to compete and thrive in today's rapidly changing world.

What methods have you used to improve DevOps? Email the editor at cmckenzie@techtarget.com.

Additional reading

DevOps methodology championed by Red Hat program manager

This was last published in August 2015

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I'm not sure about tracking a metric of lead time to develop an application - what if the team almost never works on brand new applications, and even more rarely do they end up being the same size?

One issue where I feel like a DevOps methodology could really help us is with customer ticket volume. We do track this metric, but over the years it has not seemed to improve. The volume is really overwhelming at times.
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The validity of metrics should be questioned and reevaluated regularly.  Why are we looking at this.  Why does it matter? I think Abuell's comment hits it on the head though.  
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