To measure software delivery performance, more and more organizations are turning to the four key metrics as defined by the DORA research program: change lead time, deployment frequency, mean time to restore (MTTR) and change fail percentage. This research and its statistical analysis have shown a clear link between high delivery performance and these metrics; they provide a great leading indicator for how a team, or even a whole delivery organization, is doing.
We're still big proponents of these metrics, but we've also learned some lessons since we first started monitoring them. And we're increasingly seeing misguided measurement approaches with tools that help teams measure these metrics based purely on their continuous delivery (CD) pipelines. In particular when it comes to the stability metrics (MTTR and change fail percentage), CD pipeline data alone doesn't provide enough information to determine what a deployment failure with real user impact is. Stability metrics only make sense if they include data about real incidents that degrade service for the users.
And as with all metrics, we recommend to always keep in mind the ultimate intention behind a measurement and use them to reflect and learn. For example, before spending weeks to build up sophisticated dashboard tooling, consider just regularly taking the DORA quick check in team retrospectives. This gives the team the opportunity to reflect on which capabilities they could work on to improve their metrics, which can be much more effective than overdetailed out-of-the-box tooling.
The thorough State of DevOps reports have focused on data-driven and statistical analysis of high-performing organizations. The result of this multiyear research, published in Accelerate, demonstrates a direct link between organizational performance and software delivery performance. The researchers have determined that only four key metrics differentiate between low, medium and high performers: lead time, deployment frequency, mean time to restore (MTTR) and change fail percentage. Indeed, we've found that these four key metrics are a simple and yet powerful tool to help leaders and teams focus on measuring and improving what matters. A good place to start is to instrument the build pipelines so you can capture the four key metrics and make the software delivery value stream visible. GoCD pipelines, for example, provide the ability to measure these four key metrics as a first-class citizen of the GoCD analytics.
The State of DevOps report, first published in 2014, states that high-performing teams create high-performing organizations. Recently, the team behind the report released Accelerate, which describes the scientific method they've used in the report. A key takeaway of both are the four key metrics to support software delivery performance: lead time, deployment frequency, mean time to restore (MTTR), and change fail percentage. As a consultancy that has helped many organizations transform, these metrics have come up time and time again as a way to help organizations determine whether they're improving the overall performance. Each metric creates a virtuous cycle and focuses the teams on continuous improvement: to reduce lead time, you reduce wasteful activities which, in turn, lets you deploy more frequently; deployment frequency forces your teams to improve their practices and automation; your speed to recover from failure is improved by better practices, automation and monitoring which reduces the frequency of failures.