Why companies get stuck in the middle of their devops journey

The 10th State of Devops report by automation software vendor Puppet shows that the vast majority of organizations are still stuck in the mid-evolution phase, with organizational and cultural factors remaining the big blockers to enterprise-wide success.

Why companies get stuck in the middle of their devops journey

The vast majority of organizations are mired in the middle of their devops journey, according to the 2021 State of Devops report by automation software vendor Puppet, which surveyed 2,657 technical professionals around the world about their continued adoption of devops and agile practices.

“There are far too many organizations that have been stuck in the middle of their devops evolutionary journey for far too long—even if there are pockets of success in which individual teams are highly evolved,” the report authors noted.

Respondents to the Puppet report were asked to self-identify where they are in their devops evolution, with a record high 18% identifying as highly evolved and 4% just starting out in 2021. That leaves the vast majority of 78% in the middle of their journey. Highly evolved devops practices typically lead to on-demand deployments, with key metrics like lead time for changes and mean time to resolution (MTTR) being measured in minutes not hours.

“Every year we see a large part of respondents are not moving beyond the middle of the evolutionary journey. Middle organisations have optimized for the team but not [for] the team of teams,” said Nigel Kersten, field CTO at Puppet, during a press conference. “The highest level organisations have made devops invisible, and it just becomes the way they do work and deliver software.”

What is holding organizations back in their devops journey?

The report notes that breaking workloads down into microservices and using cloud services and automation tools do not automatically equate to a highly evolved devops practice. Other key needs include cultural factors like a clear and joined-up approach, setting effective goals and establishing consistent measurement. These factors often hold back that large middle class from true enterprise-scale devops practices.

“Despite all their devops talk and funded initiatives, these companies have failed to address or understand the cultural, organizational, and process changes required to adopt a new way of working with technology,” the report authors noted.

In short, while these organizations are saying they are doing devops, they have yet to truly internalize all the elements required to reap the full benefits of more-aligned developer and ops teams. “They haven’t addressed the organizational silos and misaligned incentives around deploying software to production that gave rise to the devops movement,” the report noted.

Other blockers these mid-level organizations face include shortage of skills (33%), legacy architecture (29%), organizational resistance to change (21%), and limited or lack of automation (19%). At the higher end of the evolution curve, these blockers become even more cultural than technical, with insufficient feedback loops (18%), unclear responsibilities (18%), and failure to share best practices (17%) the most cited by respondents.

The report also pointed to extensive buyin and leadership being highly important factors in any devops evolution.“The most highly evolved firms benefit from top-down enablement of bottom-up transformation,” the report noted. “Strong teams can create substantive change within themselves and in adjacent teams, yet in the absence of meaningful leadership support, success will be confined to pockets, and widespread evolutionary improvement will not occur.”

Automation and platform teams remain key to devops evolution

Automating away engineer toil is a key tenet of devops, and 90% of highly evolved organisations have automated their most repetitive tasks, according to the survey results. But for mid-evolution organizations, there is still much work to be done, with only 62% of these organizations reporting high levels of automation across their teams; of all respondents, 58% said there remain multiple handoffs between teams before a service can be deployed.

Focusing on automation alone will not push mid-level organizations into the upper tier, though. “As an industry, we hyperfocus on the automation aspects of devops to the detriment of team interactions, fast flow, collaboration, and optimization of the whole system, and we do this because building out automation is a concrete, technical task that can usually be done by a small number of teams,” the report noted.

Continuing from last year’s findings, the presence of a dedicated internal platform team was again identified as an important factor for scaling devops success. “When platform teams can leverage existing automation, they can accelerate devops transformations.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.