If you’re a DevOps leader, you have a very tough job. You have to radically transform processes and behaviors that have been ingrained in IT for decades. You have to adopt new technologies quickly while still delivering code quickly and cost-efficiently. And you have to do all this better than your peers at other companies. Otherwise, you’ll simply slow your company’s progress in the new digital marketplace while your better-performing competitors gain advantage.
The good news is that the right metrics can help you gauge your success. Metrics can both tell you if you are traveling down the right path, or need to adjust, and help you prove the success of your DevOps initiatives to the rest of the business. But first you have to get them—and just as importantly, you have to use them.
I wrote two previous blogs talking about how to get the metrics—one outlining what not to measure and another that delved into determining which metrics are right for your organization. In this blog, we will explore the latter part: how to use metrics to ensure ongoing DevOps success.
Consider the Audience
Measurements of any sort have two primary audiences: internal and external. The same metrics can be used and gathered for both, but the intent—and how they are communicated—is different.
For internal audiences, you are measuring things to gain a better understanding of your own performance. It’s important to know what adjustments need to be made: where to double down and where to change course. Like a racing car pit crew monitoring hundreds of sensors on a vehicle, your DevOps team should be constantly looking at ways to extract the maximum performance and value from your efforts. Metrics will help you do this.
External audiences are less concerned about the nuances and details and more concerned with the actual outcomes. Going back to the racing car analogy, external audiences care about lap times and top speeds; not about the operating temperature of the engine. It’s important to keep this difference in mind when you are communicating results to business leaders. Don’t bog them down with nuances and details; instead, show the results.
Best Practices for Communication
For both internal and external audiences, there are five best practices to consider when communicating metrics:
- Automation. Automation isn’t just important for efficiency and consistency in the software development life cycle, it is also useful for capturing and communicating DevOps metrics. Tools that automatically record and communicate your results will help you keep your finger on the pulse of your organization without getting bogged down in measuring and reporting.
- Evolution. The savviest DevOps leaders don’t marry themselves to a specific set of metrics. They intuitively understand that the metrics they use to evaluate DevOps progress will mature as the DevOps practice itself matures. The metrics you measure in the first six months may not be the ones you measure in year two.
- Action. This perhaps goes without saying, but metrics need to be communicated to both audiences listed above. It can be challenging communicating results when they are not what was expected, but the best way to communicate less-than-optimal metrics is to have an action plan to remediate any possible issues.
- Communication. As noted above, action and communication go hand in hand. Once you know what’s working and what’s not working, you should have a solid plan on next steps. When something’s working well, the plan should focus on how to replicate success; when something is not working as well, the actions should focus on future improvements.
- Self-examination. Metrics aren’t just indicators of what your team is doing right and doing wrong. They’re also useful diagnostics for leadership decisions and leadership style. So remember to take the responsibility and share the credit.
When you marry the above best practices with the other measurement tips outlined in my previous blogs, you will not only be able to gather the right metrics, you’ll know what to do with them. Remember that, like DevOps itself, the practice of measuring DevOps success is something that can be started slow and expanded.
Not every organization has the time or the resources to measure everything that should—or could—be measured. So, start slow, focus on the metrics that matter to your organization and use the best practices outlined above to guide you. For those who want to learn more about DevOps and DevOps metrics, my book, “DevOps for Digital Leaders,” explores these topics—and more—in a much more detail.