What are Accelerate metrics?

Taylor Bruneaux


In software development, speed and precision are non-negotiable. Every tech company worth its salt isn’t just racing to release products; they’re committed to ensuring each release is bulletproof, reliable, and meets users’ high expectations.

Accelerate metrics aren’t just numbers; they’re the linchpins in the strategy of any tech organization that is serious about leading innovation and customer satisfaction. By integrating these metrics, companies can not just guess but know they’re on the fast track to superior software delivery.

In this article, we will explain the Accelerate metrics, how they relate to DORA metrics, and whether these metrics can help us understand developer productivity.

Are Accelerate Metrics the same as DORA metrics?

Accelerate, and DORA metrics refer to the same key performance indicators (KPIs) used to evaluate software delivery and operational performance within tech companies. The terms are derived from pivotal research by Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim. “Accelerate” comes from the title of a book authored by Forsgren, Humble, and Kim, which popularized these metrics. On the other hand, DORA stands for the DevOps Research and Assessment Group, co-founded by the same authors, emphasizing their ongoing research into DevOps practices.

These terms are interchangeable because they cover the same four metrics: deployment frequency, lead time for changes, time to restore service, and change failure rate. These metrics assess how efficiently and effectively a company can develop and deliver software, which in turn aids in enhancing DevOps practices and boosting continuous delivery capabilities.

The four key Accelerate metrics

1. Deployment frequency

Deployment frequency measures how often an organization successfully releases to production. High-performing teams tend to deploy more frequently, which allows them to iterate faster and respond more swiftly to market changes and customer needs. Deployment frequency serves as a direct indicator of a team’s agility and its ability to deliver features, enhancements, and fixes.

2. Lead time for changes

Lead time for changes defines the time it takes from code committed to code to production. Shorter lead times indicate a more efficient software development process and a more responsive engineering team. This metric reflects organizations’ capability to quickly deliver value to their customers through software updates.

3. Time to restore service

When an incident occurs in production, the speed at which a team can restore service tells of their DevOps performance. This metric, also known as mean time to recovery (MTTR), highlights the software systems’ resilience to avoid cycle time and the team’s preparedness and effectiveness in dealing with failures.

4. Change failure rate

Change failure rate measures the percentage of deployments that cause a failure in production. A lower change failure rate indicates higher-quality software and robust deployment practices. It highlights the team’s ability to introduce new features or changes without disrupting existing services.

The importance of Accelerate metrics

Accelerate metrics provide a comprehensive view of an organization’s software delivery capabilities. These DevOps metrics are vital indicators of organizational performance, focusing on speed, efficiency, stability, and reliability.

Accelerate metrics are good indicators for teams that want to:

Benchmark performance

Teams can compare their performance against industry standards and high-performing organizations. This benchmarking helps identify areas for improvement and drive strategic initiatives to enhance capabilities.

Understand development practices

By regularly measuring these key metrics, organizations can pinpoint ineffective practices and areas where the development process may lag. This ongoing assessment can spark initiatives and adoption of best practices that improve developer experience.

Enhance customer satisfaction

Frequent deployments and quick failure recovery demonstrate continuous optimization of customer-facing services and swift addressing any service impairments, leading to higher customer satisfaction.

Drive business outcomes

There is a strong correlation between software delivery performance and business performance. Organizations with superior delivery capabilities often experience better market share and market cap growth due to their ability to adapt quickly to market demands and customer needs.

Accelerate metrics in practice

Accelerate metrics provide clear benchmarks for measuring productivity, stability, and speed. However, integrating them into existing workflows can be challenging. Organizations must be careful not to disrupt team dynamics or compromise quality while implementing these metrics. Customizing these metrics to specific projects or teams provides meaningful insights rather than just quantitative results.

Here are some practical ways to apply Accelerate metrics.

Integration with tools and technology

Organizations often integrate sophisticated tooling and dashboard technologies to track these metrics effectively. Google Cloud and DevProd assessment tools provide the necessary infrastructure to measure and analyze these metrics accurately.

Cultural impact

Beyond the numerical values that these metrics represent, there is a significant cultural impact within organizations. Focusing on improving these metrics fosters a culture of excellence and continuous improvement among software development teams. It encourages a mindset oriented towards high-quality code, frequent feedback, and proactive problem-solving.

Strategic implementation

For these metrics to be impactful, engineering leaders should implement them strategically. Implementation involves deploying the appropriate tooling and ensuring that all levels of the organization understand and support the goals associated with these metrics. Leadership is crucial in setting expectations and aligning the organization toward these objectives.

Accelerate metrics don’t measure developer productivity

While Accelerate metrics are pivotal for evaluating software delivery performance, performers mistakenly use them to gauge developer productivity. These metrics assess the delivery aspect of software, such as the frequency and stability of deployments, rather than the individual productivity of developers.

Here are some things to remember when applying Accelerate metrics.

Clarifying the scope of software delivery performance

The concept of software delivery performance first appeared in the 2013 State of DevOps report. This study defined it as the ability to deploy applications while maintaining quality quickly. Over the years, this definition has evolved to focus on the speed and reliability of software delivery. Delivery metrics are distinct from developer productivity, requiring unique assessment measures.

Accelerate does not look at individual productivity

Misinterpreting Accelerate metrics can lead to a better understanding of individual developer productivity. These metrics don’t measure individual developer contributions but how efficiently a team or organization can deploy software updates. It’s important to consider other factors that truly determine developer productivity.

Exploring the multifaceted nature of developer productivity

Measuring developer productivity is a complex issue that has been explored in various studies, including the SPACE framework. These investigations reveal that productivity encompasses multiple dimensions and is perceived differently by developers and their managers. Recognizing these nuances develops a more accurate assessment of productivity.

Better ways to understand developer productivity

To move beyond the limitations of Accelerate metrics for measuring developer productivity, consider these approaches:

Focus on developer experience (DevEx)

Improving developers’ productivity can enhancetheir overall experience. This involves creating supportive and efficient work environments, promoting a learning culture, and ensuring access to high-quality documentation and optimized tools.

By doing so, organizations can not only increase the speed of output but also make development work more engaging and less burdensome. Therefore, organizations must focus on creating an environment that effectively supports developers, which can boost productivity.

Holistic metrics over traditional quantitative ones:

Traditional productivity metrics like lines of code or number of commits are increasingly seen as inadequate because they can fail to capture the actual value a developer brings to a project.

Consider holistic frameworks such as SPACE (satisfaction, performance, activity, communication, collaboration, efficiency, and flow), which consider a broader range of factors, including developer satisfaction, teamwork, and the cognitive effort required for tasks. This shift from purely quantitative metrics to more qualitative and comprehensive assessments allows for a more accurate representation of a developer’s contribution and productivity.

Balancing speed with quality and sustainability:

Leaders should prioritize software quality and long-term sustainability, not just development speed. Prioritizing rapid task completion at the cost of thoughtful planning, design, and maintenance can lead to technical debt and reduce overall productivity in the long run. Therefore, metrics should measure the quantity and quality of output to ensure that improving speed increases the software’s maintainability and performance.

Accelerate metrics are more than just numbers; they reflect an organization’s health regarding software delivery and operational efficiency. As companies navigate the complexities of technology and market demands, these metrics serve as guides. They provide a clear path for organizations to pursue excellence in software delivery, ultimately leading to better business outcomes and enhanced customer experiences.

Whether an organization seeks to refine its existing practices or transform its approach to software delivery entirely, the Accelerate metrics offer a powerful tool and a proven framework to guide this journey.

April 19, 2024

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