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The 2020 State of DevOps survey: quarantine edition

Normally we would have launched our 2020 State of DevOps survey a couple of months ago instead of today. But with all of us adjusting to working from home, often with kids also at home or other loved ones to care for, we recognized that the last thing anyone should focus on was taking a survey. So we’re late.

The additional time to plan, however, gave us the chance to consider some new and interesting pathways to explore. As we do each year, we want to reflect the current zeitgeist and provide prescriptive, pragmatic guidance that blends survey data with our real world field studies. The global pandemic has highlighted some gaping holes in our systems — both in social safety nets and our daily work. Resilient systems and structures have never felt more important than they do today.

We’d love to live in a world where everyone is realizing the full benefits of DevOps, automating away toil and successfully operating in a cloud native way. But the dirty truth is that most people work in large legacy environments with applications that are both operationally expensive and tremendously valuable to the business. Rewriting those applications for cloud native delivery is also expensive, and complex. So how do we find a sensible middle ground, one that enables us to modernize legacy environments and approaches in a pragmatic way, while also laying the groundwork for future innovation?

Changing change management practices is key to DevOps progress

Our data and field research show that most organizations that have begun their DevOps evolution struggle to move beyond the middle stages. Though we know certain practices lead to better outcomes (as outlined in our 2018 State of DevOps Report), what holds organizations back isn’t just a failure to adopt specific practices — it’s structural.

A major blocker we see time and again is rigid change management practices. It’s disheartening to see companies that have implemented CI/CD still requiring a ticket for every minor change moving through the pipeline. In many large enterprises, these change management practices are so deeply ingrained that they erode the effectiveness of new capabilities, even as they’re being built. It’s very difficult to enact change where rigid adherence to rules, fossilized process and lack of accountability for decision making are rooted in the culture.

And yet, we do see pockets of success that arise even in the most bureaucratic of cultures. This can be due to a strong leader who’s willing to break the rules, or a brave individual or team putting in the extra effort to learn something new. It could be business pressures such as reducing outsourcing costs, or a CIO mandate to move workloads to the cloud that’s driving change. And these discrete successes can in fact spread new practices to other parts of the workplace.

How do these organizations do it? Our DevOps evolution model from the 2018 State of DevOps Report offers a clue. At Stage 5 of evolution, organizations are leveraging self-service capabilities, and this relies on both a high degree of automation and collaboration across teams.

In our field studies, we’ve been working with organizations that are providing more self-service capabilities. The teams doing the work have names like platform team, platform engineering team, infrastructure innovation team, automation strike team, and, I’m sure, lots more iterations. At core, these teams are responsible for building and maintaining a platform that enables the delivery team to build and deliver applications using an API-first approach, and with a product mindset.

We are cautiously optimistic that the platform team concept and structure will help organizations scale their DevOps practices beyond a few isolated teams by providing standards, patterns, governance and economies of scale – all of which are lacking in most organizations today. We hope this year’s research will show us whether that’s true.

Looking back on the past decade of DevOps, we can point to a lot of progress. The next decade will be about creating new structures that enable rapid change, increase resilience and allow us to scale the principles and practices that make DevOps so effective.

Because this year has been such an upheaval for so many of us, we’re going to do something new with our survey. Instead of a random prize drawing among survey takers, we are going to donate $1 for every completed survey to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Our generous sponsors are also enabling us to donate all their sponsorship dollars to No Kid Hungry, COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and Doctors Without Borders, so we can help those who’ve been most affected by COVID-19 get back on their feet.

We hope you can carve out 15 minutes to take the 2020 State of DevOps survey. You’ll enable us to provide the insight that helps people make meaningful progress on their DevOps initiatives — and you’ll also be helping people who have been hit hard by COVID-19.

I’d like to thank all our generous sponsors: Armory, CircleCI, ServiceNow, Splunk, and Sysdig. I’d also like to thank all the people who’ve shared their insights and helped shape this year’s survey: Charles Betz and Stuart Rance for their insights on the intersection between DevOps and change management; Jesse Bean for his thoughts on platform teams; and Yves Vlamijnck and Ronald Horst for sharing how they’re building out self-service capabilities with Puppet.