Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps

Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations

Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim discusses the factors that impact software delivery performance and describes the capabilities and practices that result in higher levels of throughput, stability, and quality.

The basis for the book’s findings is four years of research on the State of the DevOps Report. The study collected over 23,000 survey responses from around the world. Over 2,000 organizations were involved, from small startups of less than five employees to large enterprises with more than 10,000 workers.

Key Findings

Organizations are shifting from long lead times to shorter cycles and measuring feedback from users to provide value rapidly. DevOps is accelerating technology, but within organizations, these transformations are at different stages. Research shows that there is more work to be done than we believe.

Furthermore, executives tend to overestimate their progress when compared to practitioners. This disconnect means that there is potential for more significant growth in organizations than the executives realize. It also means there is a need to measure DevOps capabilities accurately to aid decision making.

Measuring

Previous attempts to measure performance mostly focus on outputs rather than outcomes. They also focus on individual or local measures rather than a team or global ones. In the search for a successful measure of performance, the research picked these global outcomes:

  • delivery lead time
  • deployment frequency
  • time to restore service
  • change fail rate

The analysis provides evidence that there is no trade-off between improving performance and achieving higher stability and quality levels. The result is contrary to the industry’s false belief that moving faster means trading off against other performance goals.

Good culture requires trust and cooperation between people across the organization. The culture of organizations was measured by asking how strongly people agree or disagree with statements related to:

  • cooperation
  • sharing of responsibilities
  • cross-functional collaboration
  • treating failure
  • new ideas

The key finding for me was that implementing the practices of Lean and Agile movements can affect culture. The research shows that Lean management, together with continuous delivery practices, does impact culture.

Practices

Research shows that technical practices play a vital role in achieving more frequent, higher-quality, and lower-risk software releases. Continuous delivery emphasizes the importance of these practices.

Teams that did well at continuous delivery achieved higher software delivery performance levels and had to do less unplanned rework. They also had a more definite identification with the organization they work for and a generative, performance-oriented culture.

Even better, the teams experience lower levels of deployment pain and reduced team burnout. Investments in technology appear to also be investments in people, making the technology process more sustainable.

The research also shows that Lean management practices increase delivery performance. They also both decrease burnout and lead to a more generative culture.

The analysis showed that Lean product development practices were statistically significant in predicting higher software delivery performance and organizational performance. After multiple years of research, software delivery performance also predicted Lean product management practices, creating a virtuous cycle.

Furthermore, Lean product management practices improved organizational culture and decreased burnout.

Recommendation

Accelerate shines on providing hard data and facts. This book is essential for providing evidence on your road to Agile and DevOps transformation. All the data, analysis, and research make a strong case that is hard to ignore.

However, halfway through the book, it feels like they already said everything substantial. The final chapters describing the research methods and a view on leadership and organizational transformation feel like something increasing the page count. The book is summarizes four years of research on The State of DevOps Report, and it’s noticeable.

If you are looking for a hands-on guide to implement these practices, you might be disappointed. The book does a good job describing the performance driving capabilities and practices but falls short on concrete advice on implementation. If you are interested in more practical advice, I suggest you read some other books, like The DevOps Handbook.

Nevertheless, Accelerate is a must-read for anyone wanting to improve their organization’s development performance. I would recommend this book for anyone trying to convince their leadership to try the mentioned technical and organizational practices.

Arho Huttunen
Arho Huttunen
Software Craftsman

A software professional seeking for continuous improvement. Obsessed with test automation and sustainable development.

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