Excellence is everyone’s business: How a focus on building quality software keeps employees, leaders, and customers satisfied 

Posted: February 20, 2024


Dora framework

In the rapidly advancing tech world, standing still means falling behind. Emerging AI technologies and increasing competition demand more than just quality; they require constant innovation and security. To keep up and maintain our industry leadership, our delivery approach must not only improve but accelerate.

At AVEVA we embrace this challenge, continually aiming to enhance our competitive edge. Inspired by our core value of unlocking data insights for effective decision-making, we delved into data to identify key metrics that drive optimal behaviors and strategies for improvements in how we deliver software to our customers.

Looking to DORA for inspiration

In deliberating the data points to focus on, we found the great work of DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA). DORA is an ongoing project, started in 2016 by a group of researchers and practitioners who wanted to understand what makes software teams successful. They analyzed data using statistical methods and identified four key metrics that differentiate between low, medium, and high-performing software teams:

  • Lead time for changes: The time between commit to production (ready).
  • Deployment frequency: The frequency at which new releases deploy to production.
  • Mean time to recover: How long it takes an organization to recover from a failure in production.
  • Change failure rate: The percentage of deployments causing a failure in production.

These metrics provide us with a common language of what good software delivery looks like. Even better, DORA provides a framework that guides the culture and practices to positively influence these metrics. 

What I found most beneficial about DORA is that it supports the healthy conflict between business leaders and those leading software engineering excellence. Time to market is imperative but we need to balance it with providing sustainable built-in quality in our software. DORA provides a shared understanding—its research shows that software delivery performance is not only a technical issue, but also a business issue. The DORA research found that high-performing software teams are:

Improving software delivery performance has a positive impact on our bottom line, our customer experience, and our employee engagement.

Supporting teams on their quest for excellence

The DORA framework also advises methods and best practices on how to improve these metrics. A key starting point is to evaluate and improve 14 technical practices of continuous delivery, including aspects such as version control, continuous integration, deployment automation, test automation, code maintainability, loosely coupled architecture, and shift left on security. 

AVEVA has almost 2,000 developers working on dozens of products. It is not sensible for all our teams to agree on a common set of metric targets, so we have adopted the vector theory of change paradigm to guide our teams. This approach acknowledges that different teams are at different stages of mastery in their journey to software delivery excellence and ensures each team progresses at a speed and direction that is both achievable and challenging.

To support teams on this journey we have established and continue to grow supporting structures:

  1. Proficiency guidance and measures: We’ve used internal tooling  to capture a proficiency score for each technical practice. This provides data points in support of the vector theory of change and helps show teams the outcomes they could achieve with proficiency advancement.
  2. Automated data insights: Data signposts to help teams understand how they stack up with more granular indicators that affect the four DORA metrics.
  3. Knowledge networks: We launched communities of practice and expert forums so teams can cross-pollinate ideas and reduce siloed learning.
Supporting teams on their quest for excellence

Our journey is just beginning

AVEVA is on an exciting transformation journey, moving from delivering software as on-premise installations to offering cloud-based or hybrid software. This change means that some software developers who built the on-premise software need to learn and adopt a new culture where continuous delivery is more relevant than before.

To help build the good habits that are vital for a continuous delivery culture of modern software services, we want to make things like test automation and continuous integration come naturally to our developers. It should be automatic!

We are in the formative stages of leveraging DORA to accelerate progress. In the coming months, I will share success stories and lessons learned from our early adopter teams as we forge our new path.

You can learn more about DORA at dora.dev and, in under five minutes, get a quick check on how your own software delivery performance stacks up against industry standards and best practices.

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