March 15, 2022
4 Mins

How Critical are DORA Metrics for Software Teams?

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Why Measure Engineering Productivity Objectively

Traditionally, companies measured developer productivity using Lines of Code (LoC). With time, this metric system evolved to measure code velocity based on story points in Jira. While LoC is a wrong quantifier, measuring code velocity with story points could backfire as it only gives an estimate.

Identifying the right research-backed, objective metrics helps engineering teams improve efficiency, increase developer happiness, and strengthen business performance. 

Here’s what happens in the absence of productivity metrics to objectively measure engineering performance-

  • Lack of ways to make software development visible and quantifiable
  • Guesswork instead of data-driven decision making
  • Hard to get buy-in from leadership without demonstrable performance
  • Dent in resources and culture

There is an objective productivity metric system globally used by elite engineering teams to maintain their competitive advantage, succeed time and again and deliver high performance.

What is DORA? 

As identified by the Google DevOps Research and Assessment team, 4 key productivity metrics are critical to measuring the performance of a software development team. These metrics result from an extensive 6-year research conducted by over 31,000 professionals world over, and are now used globally by high-performing engineering teams to measure productivity. Let’s take a look at the fundamental metrics-

  • Deployment Frequency - How often do you deploy releases to production?
  • Lead time for changes - How long does it take your software team to go from committing code to successfully running it in production?
  • Time to restore service - How long does it take to restore service after a service incident or defect impacts the customer?
  • Change failure rate - What percentage of your deployments cause a failure in production and need remediation?

Why are DORA Metrics Relevant and Reliable? 

The DORA metrics come from extensive data-driven research. They provide a broad understanding of your team’s capabilities and delivery levels. You can also use DORA to position yourself against competitors and grow to meet DORA goals, ultimately improving development productivity.

DORA metrics also facilitate informed decisions around team overheads, process changes, gaps in development and team strengths and weaknesses. Elite engineering teams globally use DORA metrics to quantify software development success.

Classification of Performers per DORA Metrics

DORA metrics classify performers into four sets, as detailed in the table here.

  • Elite: Elite teams deploy code on-demand multiple times a day. These teams take less than a day in lead time for changes and less than an hour in time to restore service. Finally, their change failure rate is between 0-15%.
  • High: High-performing software development teams deploy code between once per day and once per week. These teams take between one day to one week for lead time for changes and less than a day for restoring services after an incident. Finally, high-performing teams have a change failure rate of 0-15%.
  • Medium: Medium engineering teams deploy code between once per week and once per month. It takes them between one week and one month in lead time for changes and less than a day to restore service. Medium-performing teams have a change failure rate of 0-15%.
  • Low: Low-performing engineering teams deploy code between once per week and once every six months. They need between one month and six months in lead time for changes and between one week and one month for restoring service. These teams struggle with a change failure rate of 46-60 percent.

DORA Metrics vs. SPACE Framework

DORA metrics offer insight into processes and the gaps in them. However, the people who perform the operations also form an integral part of the development process. To focus on this aspect, a research team led by Nicole Forsgren of GitHub came up with the SPACE Framework to quantify developer productivity instead of process or system performance. The Framework consists of these 5 metrics to measure different facets of productivity -

  • Satisfaction + Well-being
  • Performance
  • Activity
  • Communication + Collaboration
  • Efficiency + Flow

Can you easily track the moving parts in your development pipeline to make a significant difference to the productivity of your software engineering team? 

Elite teams now use DORA metrics to drive high-performance engineering that results in revenue.

Building the tools to access this data in real-time from various data sources would distract you from your core business. Insightly can help you get this data right out of the box.

Leverage Insightly to measure engineering outcomes instead of outputs using DORA metrics and create a data-driven culture for continuous improvement.

Request a demo or try Insightly for free today.

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