Stop Playing Russian Roulette With Your Product Releases - Master DORA Metrics to Master World Class Software Delivery Processes

Table Of Contents

Let's be honest, building world class software is like juggling chainsaws while walking a tightrope. One wrong move, and everything can crash and burn.

On top of that, there's the constant pressure of keeping up with amazing teams worldwide, the relentless pace of the market, and the need to deliver amazing software... it's the perfect recipe for missed targets, burnout, and a sinking feeling in your gut.

Imagine finally having the tools to navigate that software delivery tightrope. That's where DORA metrics come in.

With this data you can make confident decisions, predict potential roadblocks and become a great engineering leader.

In essence you can transform your software delivery process from a source of stress to a well-oiled machine.

Sure, "what gets measured gets managed" is old news, but as an engineering manager, you need laser focus.

That's why DORA focuses on the metrics that matter most: Deployment Frequency, Lead Time for Changes, Change Failure Rate, and Mean Time to Restore & Reliability.

With me?

Alright then, let’s go on a journey to help DORA find all these metrics.

dora metrics meme

What are the 4 Pillars of DORA Metrics?

In this article I'll take you through the basic idea of each of these metrics and how you can use them. We'll have in depth articles on each of the DORA metrics as well on our blog in due time.

With that being said, let’s move on to the individual pillars that make the foundation of these metrics.

Deployment Frequency

This measures how often you release new code to production. 

High deployment frequency empowers teams to ship quickly, experiment confidently, and react decisively to market demands or customer feedback.

Lead Time for Changes

This metric reveals the time it takes for a code change to be fully deployed in production. 

A shorter lead time means faster improvement and innovation cycles, less time spent waiting on approvals.

This means a reduced risk associated with deploying large Mount Everest sized releases.

Change Failure Rate

This tells you how often deployments lead to failures, product downtime, or rollbacks. 

A strong focus here drives better quality output more often, rigorous testing and helps reduce disruption of service for your amazing users.

Mean Time to Restore (MTTR)

MTTR measures how quickly your team can bounce back from an outage or a service disruption due to an issue.

A low MTTR shows that your team has solid incident response protocols, effective monitoring, and maybe even automated failsafe that minimize downtime for your customers.

We must remember that in the race to improve our MTTR or Failed Deployment Recovery Time (FDRT) it’s easy to overlook things and ship surface level improvements which can result in reduced quality output. 

The key then is to balance quality improvements and MTTR.

What About the Hidden Benefits of DORA

Most people feel DORA can help their teams ship great software faster when they first come across this framework. And they are absolutely right, but tracking DORA metrics gives you much more than that.

Here are a few notable secondary pillars of this framework.

Customer Centric Output

This framework promotes continuous value delivery. 

Your ability to release features quickly, respond to bugs promptly, and maintain high reliability creates a world class user experience that helps build trust, strengthen market positioning and helps you build a strong DAU/MAU.

Competitive Advantage

The market moves really fast now and it’s only going to get faster beyond 2024 especially with tools such as ChatGPT, Devin, Gemini, Co-Pilot etc.

The ability to out-innovate competitors is key to maintaining a business that is self sustaining.

High-performing teams with strong DORA metrics as a tool, can rapidly test new ideas, pivot quickly based on data, and consistently deliver the features users want & need creating a strong separation from other players in their market.

Talent Attraction & Retention

World class software engineers want to work on impactful projects within a high-functioning environment.

They value processes that allow them to ship great results all the while maintaining their sanity.

Top tier devs thrive in an environment that is built on value efficiency and experimentation and DORA metrics allows you to do just that while minimizing the time and effort wastage.

This simply means a great environment for engineering teams to build and thrive.

How to Measure DORA Metrics?

There is a lack of high quality specialized tools that allow you to measure DORA metrics.

This is actually the reason why we are building Middleware in the first place.

Here's how to leverage your existing software engineering workflow to get started

Tap into Your Core Software Engineering Workflow

Your issue tracker (Jira, etc.), version control system (Git), incident management platforms, and solutions hold a treasure trove of DORA-relevant data ready to be connected and analyzed.

You can integrate a tool like Middleware with your Jira or Git to get you all this and then some more within seconds presented in a way that takes the guesswork out of measuring what matters for your software delivery flow.

Build Custom Dashboards to Track DORA Metrics

You can always create dashboards tailored to your team's needs, aggregating data across systems to visualize performance trends, spot bottlenecks, and compare historical snapshots with your current state.

Automation Is Your Friend

Invest in scripts or CI/CD pipeline enhancements that automate data gathering, calculation, and dashboard population, saving you precious time and headache.

Once again Middleware fits well across these cases to help you gather whatever you need to build a software delivery process that blows people’s socks away.

Why Your Software Engineering Team Loves DORA

Consistently analyzing the right metrics allow you to get a better understanding of the overall health of your software development team.

Here are a few things that you can leverage if you’re a DORA driven software engineering leader.

Some teams don't love DORA metrics as much as others, do you know why?

The Developer Burnout Barometer

Consistently deteriorating DORA metrics can signal an unsustainable production pace, leading to shortcuts that compromise software quality.

This means all the hard work you and your team are putting into creating great software might be going down the drain.

Monitor DORA for signs your software team may need additional support or workload rebalancing.

Find Software Pipeline Bottlenecks

Are your lead times exceptionally long? 

It could be due to inefficient code review processes, complex approval pipeline, or lack of automation.

DORA highlights where to focus your efforts for maximum streamlining.

Rewarding the Right Things

Meticulously tracking data has a great advantage. It allows you to see what effort you should reward.

DORA metrics especially help you focus on the right things to measure developer success and reward your team in a way they truly deserve.

Google is The Ultimate DORA Metrics Machine

Google's deployment frequency and speed are legendary. 

Their focus on small changes, automation, and developer autonomy are textbook examples of DORA principles in action.

[Reference: Google SRE Book]

Next Steps? Hire DORA Metrics as Your Guide

Take Stock & Set Benchmarks

Start by establishing a clear and honest baseline of your current DORA metrics. 

Utilize industry numbers to understand how you compare, and set realistic targets for your specific context.

Experiment My Friend, Experiment

Use DORA as a lantern to light your path towards testing process changes. 

Did that new testing workflow improve your change failure rate?

Let the numbers tell you the truth.

Focus on the Long Game

As cliché as it sounds, building a high-performing software engineering team is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Encourage gradual improvement, learn from small wins and losses, & integrate DORA into your team's DNA.

What DORA Metrics Miss

It's important to remember that DORA metrics paint an insight packed, but not complete picture.

Here are a couple of ideas to get a holistic understanding of your software delivery flow.

Positive Customer Experience Impact

Always connect your DORA improvements back to improvements in overall customer experience.

Pairing DORA analysis with UX & Marketing metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) or customer satisfaction surveys can be of huge help.

Security & Code Quality

Quick push to production with a codebase full of bugs is not a win. 

Prioritize security and track key code quality indicators alongside DORA to help ensure your releases are not just quick, but built to last.

Let’s Conclude

The software development landscape is quite complex and DORA metrics can bring the much needed stillness to your delivery process.

You'll gain the ability to predict problems, optimize processes, create a happier and more productive software engineering team, and ultimately deliver an experience that keeps your customers happy and at peace.

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