Our research shows that organizations have continued to accelerate despite the pandemic. Read more about the State of DevOps in 2021.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been vast and varied, and its effects continue to influence the way we live and work. Software development teams are no exception. Even today, many of us continue to work from home, and this shift to a remote, distributed work environment has had substantial implications for how we develop software, run our businesses, and work together.

On average, many consider a remote work environment to be a net negative; in fact, according to the 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps report, 46% of those who worked from home during the pandemic said they had experienced burnout.

Teams with a generative team culture, composed of people who felt included and like they belonged on their team, were half as likely to experience burnout during the pandemic.

2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report

But there’s hope: despite increased stress from the pandemic, the report found that teams with the right DevOps culture were half as likely to experience burnout during pandemic. That’s on top of other benefits, such as increased speed and stability of software delivery and better business outcomes. What is it about DevOps that has this positive effect on software development teams?

Defining and Evaluating DevOps

Before we can answer that question, it helps to understand the concept. A lot of ink has been spilled trying to define DevOps—is it a philosophy? A methodology? A set of tools? All of the above? Loosely speaking, we think of DevOps as a cultural and professional movement that aims to increase software delivery velocity, improve service reliability, and build shared ownership among software stakeholders. But rather than try to pin down exactly what DevOps is, we think it’s more useful to explain how DevOps can unlock competitive advantages, including increased profitability, productivity, market share, and customer satisfaction for your organization. 

For seven years, Google Cloud and its DevOps Research and Assessment team, or DORA, has released the Accelerate State of DevOps report, which provides answers to these questions. With input from 32,000 professionals worldwide, it is the largest and longest running research of its kind. 

The research provides an independent view into more than 35 DevOps practices and capabilities that drive high performance. Not just that, the research allows teams to better understand which out of 35+ practices and capabilities they need to focus on first to drive the most success. The best part—the research findings can be applied, irrespective of the company size, industry, or region. It’s not surprising that teams who leverage the research findings drive improved software delivery and ultimately better organizational outcomes.

The Accelerate State of DevOps Report Metrics

Like with previous years, this year’s report identified and validated four key software delivery metrics, which are essential to measuring the efficacy of an organization’s development and delivery practices along with its ability to attain its commercial goals.  These four metrics capture the efficacy of software development teams in terms of speed and stability. Deployment frequency and lead time for changes are two metrics that measure speed, while time to restore and change fail rate represent stability of the release process. 

The four metrics are also used to identify four distinct DevOps performance profiles at a glance—low, medium, high, or elite performers. Each of these performance profiles are significantly distinct in speed and stability. While elite performers do significantly better on all four metrics, low performers do significantly worse in all areas. In fact, when comparing elite performers against the low performers, elite performers have 973x more frequent code deployments, while having 3x lower change failure rate. 

The benefits of driving improvements in speed without sacrificing stability don’t just stop there. As elite performers do well on these speed and stability metrics, they are 1.8 times more likely to meet or exceed their commercial and non-commercial goals, including profitability, market share, productivity, customer satisfaction, etc.

DevOps, Burnout, and Culture

Which leads us to the next question: in what ways has the pandemic affected software delivery, if teams experience more burnout, and how some teams were better than others in mitigating burnout than others?

For the first time, the data from Accelerate State of DevOps report showcased high and elite performers making up two-thirds of respondents. Hence, despite the pandemic (or perhaps, because of it), we continue to see the industry evolve and accelerate its ability to deliver software with more speed and better stability. Similar results were uncovered by a GitHub study, where researchers showed an increase in developer activity (pushes, pull requests, reviewed pull requests, and commented issues per user) throughout 2020.

Although software delivery performance was not negatively impacted by the pandemic, teams working from home experienced more burnout than before. There was, however, one factor that had a large effect on preventing and reducing employee burnout: culture. 

Organizations, with a high-trust, generative team culture had members who felt included and had a sense of belonging on their team. In fact, these teams were half as likely to experience burnout during the pandemic. 

To better understand generative culture, we reference a typology developed by Ron Westrum, a sociologist who found that organizational culture was predictive of safety and performance outcomes. Westrum’s model of organizational cultures includes three types of organizations: pathological, bureaucratic, and generative.

In short, culture really matters. And as our data has shown, a high-trust, generative culture  can go a long way in reducing burnout and enhancing team morale. 

Download the 2021 Accelerate State of DORA Report

For guidance on how to improve and drive initiatives in your own organization, take our DevOps Quick Check, where you answer five questions and we’ll tell you how your performance compares to others in your industry. We also share which out of the 35+ DevOps practices and capabilities you should focus on first to get the maximum impact. For an in depth analysis of our findings from this year, please download the report here. And to demonstrate how your organization has been successful in implementing DevOps best practices, nominate your team for our Google Cloud DevOps Award!

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