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Top 5 DevOps Metrics That Make an Immediate Impact

Plandek, June 24, 2021

How can DevOps metrics help managers make an impact and implement change?

Agile DevOps metrics are an increasingly hot topic. Up until recently DevOps metrics (sometimes known as DevOps KPIs) have been constrained by the analytical capabilities of the underlying DevOps toolsets.

But with a new generation of Value Stream Management tools, it is possible to surface and synthesise data from multiple DevOps tools (e.g. workflow management tools, code repos, CI/CD tools and APM/ITSM tools).

As a result, a new wave of more powerful DevOps metrics and DevOps analytics are now helping DevOps practitioners to deliver valuable software much more effectively.

Selecting the top 5 DevOps Metrics

We’ve selected the most popular DevOps metrics among our clients and have focused on those DevOps metrics that give you ‘the biggest bang for your buck’, no matter your current level of Agile DevOps maturity.

The DevOps metrics selected are similar to the DORA metrics as popularised by the DevOps Research and Assessments (DORA) group. In this article, however, we’ve chosen our top 5 DevOps metrics selection based on actual feedback (and usage) from a wide variety of Plandek clients at all levels of Agile DevOps maturity.

As such, our picks for the top five DevOps metrics reflect what we actually see being used to drive value among our clients.

Deployment Frequency

Deployment Frequency is perhaps the most fundamental DevOps metric as it measures the ability of an organisation to develop and deploy to live small software increments rapidly. More specifically it tracks the frequency with which increments of code are deployed to staging, testing and production.

As the core objective of Agile software delivery is ‘..the early and continuous delivery of valuable software..’, Deployment Frequency is a core Agile metric and represents a core objective of effective DevOps. Deployment Frequency is also one of the four DORA metrics.

Deployment Frequency Chart

Example Deployment Frequency chart – Plandek DevOps metrics dashboard

The calculation of Deployment Frequency requires surfacing data from CI/CD tools (e.g. Jenkins, CircleCI). This is typically done via reporting plug-ins to such tools or via an end-to-end delivery metrics dashboard like Plandek.

Delivery metric dashboards like Plandek enable you to analyse delivery, engineering and DevOps metrics in a number of different ways. For example, you can analyse Deployment Frequency by branch, portfolio, programme, repository or team. As such targets can be set and practical actions taken to increase deployment frequency, which in turn increases your project turnover and, ultimately, your product’s value.

Deployment Frequency Drill Down Chart
Example Deployment Frequency drill-down chart – Plandek DevOps metrics dashboard

Code Cycle Time

Code Cycle Time is a key DevOps metric as it tracks the efficiency of the Pull Request process – which itself is a critical element of the end-to-end software delivery process.

More specifically, Code Cycle Time analyses all completed Pull Requests (PRs) – such as closed, merged, and declined – within the specified time range and shows the average hours to complete.

Not only that but Code Cycle Time provides full insight into the different stages that a PR goes through, such as Time to Review, Time to Approve, Time to Merge/Close and Time to Deploy.

The method of calculation of Code Cycle Time is shown below:

Code Cycle Time Calculation: Code Cycle Time = Elapsed time of all stages on completed pull request / Count of completed pull requests

 

Code Cycle Time Chart

Example Code Cycle Time chart – Plandek DevOps metrics dashboard

A powerful DevOps analytics tool like Plandek enables you to analyse Code Cycle Time using a number of different filters in order to identify bottlenecks and reduce them significantly. Such filters include analysis by PR author, PR participant, Code Cycle Time Stage, Repository and Ticket Issue Type.

Code Cycle Time Drill Down Chart

Example Code Cycle Time drill-down chart – Plandek DevOps metrics dashboard

Mean Build Time

Mean Build Time is a very impactful DevOps metric for organisations at all levels of Agile DevOps maturity. It analyses the time taken for a build and is typically analysed by workflow.

It is a very good indicator of core DevOps process health as a steadily increasing mean workflow build time will drive longer Cycle Times.

We particularly like filtering by status to help you keep an eye on slow builds which ultimately end in failure.

Mean Build Time Chart

Example Mean Build Time view by Workflow Name

Mean Time to Recover from Build Failures

Mean Time to Recover from Build Failures is a key DevOps KPI as build failure is such a common occurrence and the main source of friction in the deployment process. As such it needs to be tracked and managed.

The metric identifies how long it takes for the next successful workflow on a branch that has failed. Mature Agile DevOps organisations become very good at managing this recovery time and so improve their deployment frequency.

Mean Time to Recover from Build Failures Chart

Example Mean Time to Recover from Build Failures metric view

Flakiest Files

Flakiest Files is a really helpful DevOps metric aimed to identify fragile source code files in your codebase which can be targeted for refactoring in order to reduce your Build Failure Rate.

The darker the shade of red the more often a commit has resulted in a failed build. Plandek’s drill-down enables you to filter by file extension to help focus on a particular subset of files.

Flakiest Files Chart

Example Flakiest Files DevOps metric view

Build Failure Rate

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that this is the sixth metric in our Top 5 DevOps metrics guide, but we’ve included it as it’s another key DevOps KPI that really shouldn’t be left out.

Indeed, Build Failure Rate is an extremely helpful DevOps metric as it identifies the percentage of workflows which fail and the overall risk this poses to development.

As such, Build Failure Rate helps track and manage a significant source of risk both in day-to-day development and responding to incidents due to delays. Taking all your workflows over a period it calculates the percentage that ended in failure.

Build Failure Rate Chart

Example Build Failure Rate DevOps metric view

About Plandek

Plandek works by mining data from toolsets used by delivery teams (such as Jira, Git, CI/CD tools and Slack), to provide end-to-end delivery metrics/analytics to optimise software delivery predictability, risk management and process improvement.

Plandek is a global leader in this fast-growing field, recognised by Gartner as a top nine global vendor in their DevOps Value Stream Management Market Guide (published in Sept 2020).

Plandek is based in London and works with clients globally to apply predictive data analytics and machine learning to deliver software more effectively.

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