What makes a great developer? 

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The 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report: Part 1

It might come as a surprise, but there’s more to being a great developer than the quality of your code. To define what makes a truly Elite developer in the post COVID-19 world would take years of research, mining data measured against almost countless metrics. Thankfully Google Cloud’s DevOps Research and Assessment team (DORA) have done the hard work for us with exactly that in the State of DevOps report 2021 .

Whilst you really should find time to take in the whole report, we’ve got you covered with the main takeaways from the 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps report below, where we reflect on exactly how the report defines a ‘great’ developer. And don’t worry if you’re not quite there yet; check out part 2 for actionable tips from the report to help boost your performance as a developer.

The 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report

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What is the State of DevOps Report? 

Consolidated from data contributed by over 32,000 professionals worldwide, this annual long-running research report deep dives into carefully selected metrics measured over years, and provides invaluable insight into industry performance, delivery and operations. This resource is essential reading for developers, and can help you raise the bar from being a good developer to a great one, and perhaps even Elite. 

Who took the State of DevOps Report survey? 

The report pulls data directly from survey results gathered from industry professionals around the globe, running the gamut across demographics and firmographics. With workplace and industry culture directly contributing to the success of developer teams (more on that in [Part 2]), it’s vital to understand the characteristics, traits and attributes that make up the industry. See some samples below: 

Demographics of those surveyed:

·      Gender: 12% of those surveyed identified as female, 1% as non-binary. 

·      Disabilities: 9% reported having a disability. 

·      Underrepresentation: 17% identified as belonging to an underrepresented group, which can include race, gender, or another characteristic. 

Firmographics of those surveyed:

·      Departments: 23% of respondents work in development or engineering teams, 21% in DevOps or SRE. 

·      Industry: 33% work in technology, followed by financial services and retail.

·      Team size: 62% of those surveyed work in teams of 10 or less people, with 6% working solo.

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Software Delivery Performance Metrics

The report uses four software delivery metrics to rank the teams surveyed, using these metrics to identify them as Low, Medium, High or Elite performing teams. 

What are the four Accelerate metrics?

1.     Deployment frequency: how often is new code deployed to production? 

2.     Lead time for changes: what is the length of time between code committed and production?

3.     Time to restore services: in the event of incidents that impair users (e.g outages), how long does it take for your team to resume normal services? 

4.     Change failure rate: what percentage of deployments to production result in impaired service requiring a hotfix, rollback or patch? 

The fifth metric: 

2021’s report also measured a fifth metric reflecting operational performance: reliability. This has shifted from the previous report’s measure of availability, in an expansion to also include performance, latency, and scalability under the umbrella of ‘reliability’. To put it more simply, Reliability is a measure of how likely a team is to keep promises about their software. 

What makes an Elite development team

Having measured all the teams surveyed against these four metrics, the report uses this data to categorise them into Low, Medium, High or Elite, with clear performance definitions for each tied to the four metrics above. As you would expect, the difference in software delivery performance between Elite and Low teams is notable throughout.

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Elite vs Low teams

  • Deployment frequency:

Whilst Elite teams are deploying on-demand and multiple times daily, Low teams deploy less than once every six months. This is a decrease in performance for Low teams compared to the 2019 report. 

  • Change failure rate: 

When it comes to new services requiring fixes, Low teams can almost double that of Elite teams at up to 30%, with Elite teams reporting just 0%-15%.

  • Lead time for changes and time to restore services:  

The most impressive strides Elite teams are making are in lead time for changes and time to restore services, in which they are racing ahead with 6570x faster times (yes, 6570!) than Low teams: less than one hour in both metrics for Elite teams as opposed to the six months or more it takes Low teams.

High and Medium teams

High and Medium teams add some markers in between the two extremes, and should help you identify where you land in the rankings: 

  • Deployment frequency:

High teams deploy between once per week and once per month, whilst some Medium teams are deploying much less frequently at once per six months.

  • Change failure rate: 

Surprisingly the change failure rate between High, Medium and Low teams is consistent at between 16%-30%, an increase for both High and Medium teams since the last report. 

  • Lead time for changes: 

High teams report lead times of between one day and one week, whilst Medium teams can take upwards of six months

  • Time to restore services: 

When it comes to restoring impaired services, High teams take less than one day where Medium can take anywhere between one day and one week.

How do they do it?

It’s of no surprise that the most successful teams are those with the most frequent deployments, shortest lead times, fastest times to restore services, and lowest change failure rates. Using the above data, you can see where you and your team are ranking in these metrics from Low to High, and just where you land on your journey to becoming a ‘great’ developer. 

Photo by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash


But if you still have a way to go, how do you make the jump between the rankings? What steps are Elite teams taking that give them the edge? Well help is on hand: the report highlights a variety of actions and processes that have driven software delivery performance success for teams across the four metrics in 2021, including multi-cloud use, the integration of SRE principles, and a drive to mitigate burnout. Don’t worry if time isn’t on your side – we’ve got all the need to know details in the second part of our coverage of the  2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report.

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