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IDC DevOps Success Survey Yields Two Remarkable Findings
Adam Frary, MBA Associate General Manager | March 18, 2021
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It’s a good day when one receives research results that are both unanticipated and remarkable.

Thanks to Jim Mercer, Research Director within IDC's DevOps Solutions research practice, and the IDC team, we recently experienced just this sort of moment of truth when we dusted the data from our survey, “Decoding DevOps Successes Improves Business Outcomes,” for fingerprints to reveal many key findings.

The survey’s 1,000 data rows and 79 pivot tables confirmed and quantified many commonly held views about quality improvements, lead times and agility, among other topics. Here are some widely acknowledged DevOps benefits with impressive, quantitative results:

  • 70% of DevOps leaders reported they release updates daily or hourly.
  • Even lagging organizations reported lead-time improvements of 21-40%.
  • 27% of all organizations saw “massive improvement in quality” as a result of DevOps.
  • 91% of DevOps leaders have adopted agile requirements planning.

The survey also uncovered these counter-intuitive insights:

  • Leaders in DevOps are even more focused on education and upskilling than organizations at the beginning of the DevOps learning curve.
  • Leaders in DevOps were more likely than the majority of respondents to use commercially available DevOps technologies than custom technologies developed in-house.
  • Respondents say that automation, especially for testing, is vital to DevOps. Still, many respondents with very high automation scores reported challenges when trying to achieve end-to-end efficiencies. (This should serve as a gentle reminder to automate the right things, since automating “the other things” can negatively affect throughput. An excellent resource on this topic is Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Theory of Constraints.)

These two findings deserve special attention:

Remarkable Finding #1: DevOps delivers substantial gains in employee satisfaction, decision-making, learning, innovation, and communication for organizations at every level of DevOps attainment.

Remarkable Finding #1: DevOps delivers substantial gains in employee satisfaction, decision-making, learning, innovation, and communication for organizations at every level of DevOps attainment.

Typically, organizations investing in DevOps do so to achieve benefits associated with IT efficiency: shorter lead times, improved quality and better responsiveness. All of these benefits are worthwhile, and all indisputably result from DevOps success.

When respondents were asked, “What are the most significant benefits your IT organization has experienced as a result of DevOps?” the number one answer was “Improved IT employee satisfaction.” Answers 3, 4 and 5 were:

3. Better IT-to-business alignment

4. Better collaboration and communication between teams and functions

5. Better decision-making

These responses demonstrate that DevOps appears to be instrumental in helping people work well together as a team. Moreover, the responses imply a correlation to employee experience. Not only does DevOps help people work well together, make better decisions and improve the partnership between business and IT; people are also aware of DevOps’ contribution. Teams are making better decisions, and they know it’s because of DevOps. This self-awareness is central to a culture of continuous learning.

The number 2 benefit of DevOps, which is notable but not surprising, is improved quality. Rounding out the list are faster cycle times (ideation to production), more engaged and productive staff, and improved security.

Remarkable Finding #2: Business executives and customers value DevOps highly, most even more so than their IT counterparts.

Remarkable Finding #2: Business executives and customers value DevOps highly, most even more so than their IT counterparts.

On the afternoon when HCL’s DevOps SMEs and the IDC research team first peered into the 79 pivot tables of detailed results, this finding did not surprise us, but it would have if we had not already uncovered Remarkable Finding #1.

Typically, organizations and leaders in large enterprises are most vexed by getting teams to work well together so that they make sound decisions and align IT with the business. Having already uncovered Finding #1, we surmised that executives, searching for end-to-end results across organizations from their lofty perches, grasp the often intractable challenges of increasing employee satisfaction and engagement, improving decision-making, and removing obstacles to collaboration among teams.

Viewed through this lens, the data make perfect sense: business executives highly value the soft benefits of DevOps noted in Finding #1. And, when teams work well together—with the valuable technical assistance of well-orchestrated DevOps—organizations achieve the benefits they seek: an improved customer experience and employee experience.

When respondents were asked, “To what degree do your DevOps teams drive your organization's business value?”, 50% selected Extremely High or Very High. Not bad! And for DevOps leaders, it was an impressive 70%.

And to clarify, the traditional, less remarkable benefits of DevOps are still impressive. Here are a few findings that prove the point.

Question: What are the most significant benefits your IT organization has experienced as a result of DevOps?:

  1. Faster cycles (ideation to production) were noted by 34% of respondents.
  2. Lower costs were noted by 27%.
  3. Improved security and regulatory compliance were noted by 32%.

Eveline Oehrlich, Chief Research Officer of DevOps Institute, says, “The technical nature of DevOps can be distracting, leading organizations to place too much emphasis on siloed metrics or optimizing narrow aspects of DevOps. They may, for example, over-prioritize automation and lose sight of the fact that collaboration and communication yield enormous benefits.”

The technical nature of DevOps can be distracting, leading organizations to place too much emphasis on siloed metrics or optimizing narrow aspects of DevOps.

Oehrlich adds, “We at DevOps Institute see data that complement the findings of the Decoding DevOps Success survey. We just finished evaluating the data from our third Upskilling DevOps Enterprise Skill Survey for the report ‘Upskilling 2021: Enterprise DevOps Skills’ (March 31, 2021). We found that 69% of our survey respondents rated human skills as a critical skill domain, second only to automation skills (72%). This finding was consistent across roles, titles, regions and companies of all sizes. In further breaking down the data on must-have human skills for DevOps team members, the number one skill was collaboration and cooperation. This was followed by sharing and knowledge transfer, communication, personal value commitment and diversity and inclusion. Future upskilling programs must address development and continuous nurturing of human or soft skills, as that is how organizational cultures are changed.”

DevOps capabilities should be orchestrated with these findings in mind.

Data and insights from the Decoding DevOps Successes survey are a healthy reminder that the human side of DevOps and the connection between IT and the business that DevOps fosters map directly to executive priorities: better teaming, improved efficiencies, more nimble organizations, happier customers and employees, and revenue growth. And I probably don’t need to point out that all of these benefits lead to happier executives, board members, and stockholders.

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