January 6, 2023

DevOps: Freedom, Maintability or Velocity

Is it possible to achieve a balance between maintainability, freedom and velocity in DevOps? If not, what should be prioritised

Velocity

Internationally there are over 24.3 million software engineers in 2021, with predictions to grow to 45 million by 2030. However, without effective onboarding of these new recruits, many businesses will struggle to optimise their teams, leading to disappointing performance improvements.

McKinsey defines the “Developer Velocity” as improving business performance via software development through:

  • Empowering developers
  • Constructing an innovation stimulating environment
  • Eliminating points of friction

Due to the nature of speed and developing the full potential of talent, this definition does extend past velocity and into agile methodologies as well.

Organisational qualities of top performers in the Developer Velocity Index (DVI) typically possess best-in-class developer tools which enables:

  • Development
  • Collaboration
  • Planning
  • Continuous integration and delivery
  • Open-source capabilities

This extends to organisations which have public-cloud adoption in addition to low-code and no-code platforms.

The benefits of using DVI

Companies in the top quartile of the Developer Velocity Index (DVI) outperform others in the market by four to five times. Revenue CAGR (compound annual growth rate) by DVI quartile (2014-2018) graph

Freedom

As tech is constantly evolving and growing, there is even greater potential for freedom for developers. Whilst they have a growing choice of tools that enable them to deliver software efficiently and quickly, they also have a greater amount of responsibility for the applications’ performance. 

In the best examples, this results in highly disruptive and innovative practices such as Netflix and Etsy. Instead of unengaged developers passing on poorly tested code to an operation team, organisations receive good quality tested and automated architectures directed from a motivated DevOps team.

The three main discussion trends around freedom in DevOps:

  • The Rebirth of Automation- concepts of “infrastructure as code” is an expected extension of first virtualisation, then cloud computing
  • The “Re-Discovery” of the Customer- a growing emphasis on customer satisfaction due to low switching costs
  • Measure Everything- tools such Application Performance Monitoring (APM) could be heading for a devolution as tech grows and becomes more streamlined and custom for users

Maintainability 

Systems that do not adhere to maintainability values result in technical debt and consume large quantities of resources. As Christina Ljungberg explains technical debt as since an organisation technical “system was built, a lot has happened around the world of IT. By doing nothing to adjust the system to the new reality, a technical debt has grown. The technical limitations hinder the company from expanding and evolving the business”.

However, there are varying debates around the percentage of maintenance as a % build cost:

Additionally, there is a significant and negative correlation between cost and maintenance; as maintainability increases the cost simultaneously decreases.

Cost vs maintainability graph

Is it possible to achieve a balance between said performance and freedom?

In a 2022 report by Zivver, the majority of IT leaders recognise their employees’ right to focus, free of distractions. This is emphasised in the same report as 78% of employees found IT environments require them to grapple with too many arduous IT security protocols and disparate IT systems, hindering productivity and increasing the risk of mistakes.

Whilst there are always anomaly employees that would not suit this style of working, more employee freedom:

  • enables employees to progress individually through increased productivity
  • encourages more collaboration within the collective engineering team 
  • enhances the ability to attract and retain the best talent pools

However, PWC argues employee freedom without moderation is destructive as structure is required in order to maintain boundaries, functionality, a healthy working balance and mental comfort. Whilst too much control has the reputation of “micromanager” and causes employee frustration, a hands-off leader with a high absence rate creates strong negative relationships with employees as well.

Without the measurable outcomes and regular communication that comes with a balanced leadership, there is no framework to establish what is defined as a success or common goal to work towards within a group or individual setting; especially within innovative projects. This is because measuring input instead of output, encourages a culture of presenteeism, where employees are not actually being productive but appearing to be so. 

Establishing a structured prioritisation of maintainability and velocity enables and enhances better relationships between operations and application development teams; reducing project delays and expenses. Although too much prioritisation of said combination can result in less communication between operations and developers and thus create silos. However, this can be mitigated by regular internal conversations around optimal workflow designs. 

Good teams should continue conversations to constantly evolve, negotiate standard operating procedures and utilise their internal tooling setup as a support function.

In order to tackle the common organisational problem of miscommunication or lack of communication within technical teams, WeShape offers an on-demand consultant service. Within this, we provide:

  • IR35- compliant statement of work solutions to establish a common goal before work starts
  • Consultants that are vetted from technical and cultural perspectives to ensure co-harmony
  • Bi-weekly cadence calls with project leads to ensure quality of deliverables
  • Ease of timesheet submission and direct point of contact for any escalations
  • An opportunity to work with a dedicated Account Manager as the partnership scales
  • An unparalleled network of top 5% associates to ensure there is a high level of velocity and expertise in maintainability
If you’re interested in booking a technical call to find out more about our consultant service, book a quick chat with WeShape.

About the Author
WeShape
WeShape

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