Saj Arachchillage Fri, Apr 16, '21 10 min read

Assessing your DevOps maturity and capability: the good, the bad, the ugly.

Our previous blog used innovation in the space race and ski jumps to frame our conversation around the fundamentals of DevOps (consisting of continuous delivery, continuous integration, and continuous deployment). While we dived into the basics of DevOps from a technical perspective, this article will explore DevOps from a business point of view, with a focus on an organisation’s DevOps maturity levels.

The ski jump, as referenced below, was mentioned in the previous article and is divided up into four quadrants and based off two axis – Cost of Running (CoR) and Cost of Change (CoC). There are two main areas that organisations (or teams within a business for that matter) fall in to: the red and the green.

Fundamentals of devops in digital transformation

Another way of thinking about maturity this is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Organisations in the green (good) section of the model have a low CoR and low CoC, and are able to develop, implement, and get solutions into the hands of users within hours.

Organisations in the red (the bad) section of the model have high CoR and high CoC, and tend to be slower to implement solutions to capitilise on opportunities – often taking months or years to take an idea to market. How many times can you recall planning, designing, and implementing a solution all in the same year?

And what about the ugly? These are forces that are slowing or holding back your organisation from realising the full potential that DevOps offers. And we’ll get to this later.

We use the terms good, bad, and ugly very lightly, as there are a range of reasons why organisations fit each of these tags. It’s by no means an insult, but a reflection of where the organisation is placed on the modernisation journey.


The Bad: Organisations with a low DevOps maturity

On closer inspection of the top right (red) quadrant, organisations and teams who populate this area are still predominantly using on-prem technology. Such organisations tend to gravitate towards the familiar, traditional tools and technologies, processes and methodologies. Those in this quadrant also typically work with familiar concepts such as IT Ops, Support, BAU, Managed Services, etc.

These organisations are typically larger, enterprise businesses with complex requirements, an ageing technology stack, and have various regulator requirements on them. The higher cost of change and running comes is no surprise.

However, it’s not all bad. These same enterprises typically have a larger customer base and revenue stream to be able to fund modernisation programmes. And when you consider DevOps is a journey, a way of working, these enterprises have a window of opportunity to modernise their business and not just remain competitive but lead the industry too.

Beginning the journey towards a higher DevOps maturity includes:

  • Auditing technology stack to identify starting point for modernisation
  • Adopting a Hybrid or Full Cloud technology stack
  • Upskilling and preparing your people to transition to DevOps methodologies
  • Understanding how new methodologies will change internal working relationships
  • Automating aspects of your DevOps processes
  • Creating a roadmap for your DevOps modernisation programme


The Good: Organisations with a high DevOps maturity

We’ve just looked at the lower end of the DevOps maturity curve, now it’s time for the upper. Teams with high maturity levels were either early adopters of cloud-based technologies or are cloud-native. The latter were fortunate enough to miss the steep modernisation curve and started in the green quadrant. Those in this green quadrant are what you consider high performing – they perform well in DevOps measurements such as deployment frequency and lead time to change. High performing organisations have mastered their DevOps culture and even operate more of a No Ops ecosystem, as they are heavily reliant on automation.

High-performing teams, in the green quadrant, prefer cross-functional teams, and are typically structured around types of work. These teams are generally PaaS and SaaS products with optimised structures and processes, and have minimised the Cost of Change and Cost of Running by adapting or adopting new tools and technology. This allows them to achieve optimal speed-to-market, giving them the required agility and flexibility inside their business structure to outrun their competition.

Again, it’s easy to compare the good and bad, thinking that cloud-native organisations have it easy, but there are a range of benefits they have missed out on, including years of data collection and a robust customer base. That is why it is hard to compare success stories like Instagram, creating a billion-dollar business from scratch, to a leading enterprise business needing to transform their existing organisation, teams, processes, and systems.

We’re not just seeing innovative success stories in the consumer, recreational space either. We’re also witnessing the rise of neo banks and FinTech startups, even in the highly conservative RegTech and Financial Services industries.

The eagle-eyed among you may have seen the mention of the singularity in the diagram above. While we won’t get too deep into this, this is an organisation who have reduced both the CoC and CoR to zero. This is purely hypothetical at this stage, but it’s not out of the question. How would this look in real life? It would be a great topic in itself and best left for another post. But in short, think an AI assistant like HAL from 2001 or Jarvis from Ironman, who could make changes and upgrades to systems with no human interaction. 

Taking your DevOps maturity levels to new heights includes:

  • Implementing a Distributed Digital Governance as a Service approach
  • Automating all DevOps processes and embedding appropriate QA mechanisms
  • Re-evaluate technical debt as identified earlier and update roadmap as required


The ugly: Forces that hold organisations back from achieving their DevOps and modernisation plans.

In keeping with the good, bad, ugly theme, it’s only fair to discuss, or at least touch on ‘ugly’. Rather than a DevOps maturity level or type of organisation on their DevOps modernisation journey, this final point focuses around the forces that hold organisations back from achieving their DevOps and modernisation plans.

As an end state, it’s fair to say most organisations will want to end up in the green zone, and they’ll get there at varying speeds depending on the size of investment and the forces that could slow their progress down. While we will cover these in greater detail in our next article, at a high level these are:

  • The upward forces that slow you down: Inherited organisational culture, legacy architecture, and the skilled worker shortage,
  • The sidewards forces that can blindside you and slow or halt your progress altogether.

The key point with these forces is that maturity DevOps practices can help an organisation recover or overcome obstacles faster. We’re looking forward to diving into these forces in our next article.


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