Actual business value of DevOps and Agile practices still elusive, survey suggests

Intuitively, DevOps and Agile seem like winning strategies. But few know how much their businesses are winning -- all they know is how much faster things are going out the door.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

For IT executives and professionals, adoption of Agile and DevOps approaches is a no-brainer -- encouraging collaboration on software projects at all stages helps get projects out the door faster, with the blessings of the business. Everybody feels better about the deliverable.

Photo: HubSpot

However, it's not clear how much value businesses are actually seeing out of such efforts. It's not that DevOps and Agile are not delivering value; it's just unknown what that value is.

That's the gist of a new survey, conducted by Forrester Research and sponsored by Blueprint Software, which finds that while Agile and DevOps are anecdotally adding value, there are few actual measurements to back it up. Fewer than half of respondents, 45%, actually use business value as a metric of success for Agile and DevOps initiatives. For 50%, it's actually a struggle to link DevOps activities to business outcomes. The survey's authors define "business value" as revenue, competitiveness, profitability, and new customers.

Most organizations struggle to move beyond the typical IT-focused Agile and DevOps metrics of speed and "quality at speed." At least 62% of those surveyed say they rely on plain old speed to determine the success of their efforts. More than half (53%) measure quality at speed to determine success. Interestingly, only 33% regard return on investment as relevant to Agile/DevOps success.

It's notable that the survey's authors fuse Agile (working with the business) and DevOps (development and operations teams working in coordination) into a single category. Both approaches call for a fairly radical restructuring of IT workflows, increase the rates of incremental releases, and take software development out of its relative isolation.

Providing metrics closer to what the business expects makes sense if there is going to be full support for Agile and DevOps initiatives. The way to achieve this is through greater communication and collaboration across teams, as well as efforts to overcome manual processes and organizational silos.

The majority still rely heavily on email and provide status updates on a weekly basis or less. Only 30% say that they can automate or orchestrate all precoding activities and are able to effectively reuse requirements and user stories across teams.

Not insignificantly, there's also a cultural divide, the survey shows: close to 40% struggle with a lack of cultural readiness by the business and IT.

What's being done to address these issues, and bond Agile and DevOps closer to business results? The survey finds the following efforts underway:

  • Defining better business-related metrics 61%
  • Modernizing legacy applications 61%
  • Improving requirements definition 58%
  • Improving Agile management and scaling 54%
  • Continuous testing 52%
  • Measuring business outcomes 50%

Technologies or approaches that would help tie Agile and DevOps closer to business results include the following:

  • End-to-end traceability from business initiative and source code components to test assets and deployed components 84%
  • Automatic monitoring and reporting on the statis of entire DevOps toolchain 82%
  • Automated support for legacy application modernization 80%
  • Reports and dashboards on the business value delivered by DevOps pipeline 78%
  • Automation and orchestration of upfront business activities (e.g, reuse, compliance) 76%
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