DevOps Assessment: Understanding your DevOps maturity

Taylor Bruneaux


DevOps has revolutionized software development in organizations. By integrating development and operations teams, it enables seamless collaboration and productivity.

However, measuring a company’s performance in this arena is helpful through a DevOps maturity assessment. This assessment process is crucial as it helps identify areas that require improvement and those performing well. This article will delve into the importance of conducting a DevOps maturity assessment, how to carry it out, and what a sample assessment might look like.

Understanding DevOps maturity assessments

A DevOps maturity assessment evaluates the current state of a company’s DevOps practices against a set of established criteria or maturity models. This assessment covers various aspects of the DevOps transformation, including culture, tools, processes, and performance.

By determining the maturity levels, from initial automation to continuous deployment, companies can identify improvement opportunities and align their DevOps strategies more closely with their business objectives.

Why conduct a DevOps assessment?

Some of the reasons for conducting a DevOps assessment include the following:

Performance enhancement

Assessments help pinpoint inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the software delivery lifecycle, from code deployment to release frequency.

Continuous improvement

Companies can continuously improve their operations and development processes by assessing DevOps maturity.

Alignment with business goals

DevOps transformations should support broader business strategies. An assessment ensures that the DevOps initiatives contribute effectively to achieving these goals.

Cultural integration

Fostering a culture of collaboration is a critical element of DevOps. Assessments can help understand how well developers adopt this culture across teams.

How to conduct a DevOps assessment

Conducting a DevOps assessment involves several key steps:

Define assessment criteria

Using frameworks like those proposed by DevOps experts such as Gene Kim, Jez Humble, and Nicole Forsgren or utilizing the DevOps Research and Assessment, or DORA metrics, define what maturity looks like for your organization.

Gather the right team

Include representatives from development, operations, and centralized DevOps teams to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.

Use the right tools and resources

Teams should leverage assessment tools and software to provide insights into various metrics such as deployment frequency, change failure rate, and failure recovery.

Interview and survey

To gather qualitative data on DevOps culture, practices, and challenges, interview team members, and conduct developer experience surveys.

Analyze and report

Analyze the data collected to identify trends and issues. The final step is to compile this information into a report that outlines current maturity levels and suggests a road map for improvement.

Understanding the DevOps maturity assessment

A DevOps maturity assessment evaluates an organization’s current state of DevOps practices against a structured framework, typically categorized into several maturity levels. These levels help organizations understand their progress in adopting DevOps principles and practices and identify areas for improvement.

The typical DevOps maturity levels are:

Novice: At this initial stage, organizations are just beginning their DevOps journey. Processes are often manual, siloed, and reactive. There is minimal use of automation, and the concept of continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) is either not implemented or in its infancy.

Intermediate: Organizations at this level have started to implement some DevOps practices. There is a basic level of automation and some integration between development and operations teams. CI/CD practices are more established but may need to be fully optimized.

Advanced: At the advanced level, organizations have a well-established DevOps culture. They’ve achieved significant automation across the lifecycle, and practices like continuous testing, monitoring, and deployment are smooth. The organization frequently releases software updates and strongly emphasizes metrics and feedback for continuous improvement.

Elite: This is the highest level of DevOps maturity. Organizations at this stage exhibit a high degree of automation, with advanced monitoring and predictive analytics in place. Deployment cycles are incredibly rapid, and the organization can quickly adapt to changes in the market or technology thanks to highly optimized processes and a culture that fully embraces continuous learning and experimentation.

By understanding and evaluating themselves against these levels, organizations can better plan their path forward in their DevOps transformation, focusing on specific areas that need improvement to advance to the next level of maturity.

Sample questions and answers for a DevOps maturity assessment

The following section outlines sample questions to gauge the maturity level of an organization’s DevOps practices. Each question includes potential answers that indicate different levels of maturity within the organization.

Question 1: How often do you deploy to production?

  • Level 1 (Novice): We deploy manually and less frequently, usually once every few months.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): We deploy monthly, often requiring significant manual processes.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): We have automated several components of our deployment process, allowing us to deploy bi-weekly.
  • Level 4 (Elite): We deploy on-demand, multiple times a day, through fully automated processes.

What is your change failure rate?

  • Level 1 (Novice): More than 30% of our deployments result in some form of failure that impacts users.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): Our change failure rate is between 15% and 30%.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): We experience a 0-15% change failure rate.
  • Level 4 (Elite): Our failure rate is negligible due to robust testing and monitoring.

How do you manage configuration changes?

  • Level 1 (Novice): Configuration changes are made manually and are not version-controlled.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): Some configurations are scripted, but engineers perform many aspects manually.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): Most configurations are automated and stored in a version control system.
  • Level 4 (Elite): All configuration management is automated, versioned, and routinely audited for compliance.

Describe your monitoring and alerting strategy.

  • Level 1 (Novice): We have basic monitoring set up; alerts are only sometimes reliable or timely.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): We monitor core systems, and alerts sometimes require manual intervention to resolve.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): Comprehensive monitoring and automated alerting systems cover all critical systems.
  • Level 4 (Elite): We use advanced, predictive monitoring tools with automated response systems that often resolve issues before they impact users.

What is your approach to database management in development and operations?

  • Level 1 (Novice): Databases are managed separately by development and operations, often leading to issues during deployment.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): We occasionally sync database changes between development and operations but need more systematic processes.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): Database changes are managed through version control and integrate into the deployment pipeline.
  • Level 4 (Elite): Fully automated database management processes ensure seamless integration and consistency across environments.

How do you handle post-deployment failures?

  • Level 1 (Novice): We often roll back changes, which can be lengthy and risky.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): We have some automated scripts to handle specific failures, but manual intervention is often required.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): We use automated rollback and fix-forward practices depending on the scenario.
  • Level 4 (Elite): Failures are sporadic and are usually handled automatically with minimal or no downtime.

What is the level of collaboration between development and operations teams?

  • Level 1 (Novice): The teams operate in silos with little interaction.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): There are regular meetings, but collaboration is still limited to specific projects or issues.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): Teams are integrated into projects, fostering proactive collaboration.
  • Level 4 (Elite): DevOps is fully embraced, with cross-functional teams working seamlessly.

How do you ensure the quality of your code?

  • Level 1 (Novice): Developers check code quality manually before deployment.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): We use some automated tools to check code quality, but only sometimes across all projects.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): Automated code quality checks integrate into our CI/CD pipelines.
  • Level 4 (Elite): Continuous code quality monitoring and automated performance optimizations are integral to our development process.

Describe your approach to learning from operational failures.

  • Level 1 (Novice): Teams log failures, but there is no formal process for learning from them.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): We review major failures in team meetings to identify lessons learned.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): We conduct blame-free postmortems and systematically track and implement improvements.
  • Level 4 (Elite): Continuous learning from failures is part of our culture, with real-time feedback mechanisms and adaptive changes.

How is your software development process aligned with business goals?

  • Level 1 (Novice): There is little alignment; software development often occurs in response to immediate business pressures.
  • Level 2 (Intermediate): Some projects align with business goals but must be more systematic across the organization.
  • Level 3 (Advanced): DevOps processes align with business strategies, with regular reviews to ensure alignment.
  • Level 4 (Elite): Our development strategy fully integrates with business objectives, driving innovation and efficiency at all levels.

These questions and answers can help an organization understand where it is in its DevOps journey and highlight areas for improvement in its pursuit of higher maturity levels.

A DevOps maturity model is crucial for companies to understand their current capabilities and plan and execute improvement strategies. By focusing on the development and operations processes, creating a common goal, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, companies can enhance their organizational performance and stay competitive in their respective markets.

April 25, 2024

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