2023 DORA Report, broken down.

2023 DORA Report, broken down.

In this article, I break down the key findings of the recent 2023 DORA Report.

💡 This is the latest article on my newsletter. Every week I break down papers on developer productivity.
🙌 TL;DR:
User-centric teams have 40% higher organizational performance.

Code reviews can accelerate software delivery performance by 50%.

Quality documentation amplifies the impact of other technical capabilities.

Different aspects of culture have significant effects on key outcomes.

You might be familiar with the DORA metrics, often referred to as the "four keys". However, DORA is much more than that.

DORA, short for DevOps Research and Assessment, is a long-running research program that aims to help engineering teams improve their software delivery capabilities. Every year, DORA publishes a comprehensive report based on their research, investigating which capabilities drive software delivery performance, well being, organizational performance, operational performance and team performance.

💡 Organizational performance: The organization should produce not only revenue, but value for customers, as well as for the extended community.

Team performance: The ability for an application or service team to create value, innovate, and collaborate.

Software delivery performance: Teams can safely, quickly, and efficiently change their technology systems.

Operational performance: The service provides a reliable experience for its users

The 2023 State of DevOps Report is the latest release from DORA. This year's report had nearly 3,000 respondents, representing a substantial 3.6x increase in participation compared to the previous year. The respondents come from diverse industries, roles, genders, experience levels, and stages of company growth, making the data sample highly representative.

👉 Download the full article here from the DORA website.

Key Takeaways

The DORA research program focuses on understanding the relationship between different ways of working and engineering outcomes, specifically organizational performance and the well-being of developers. Here are the key takeaways from this year's report:

User-Centricity Drives Organizational Performance

One significant finding in the report revolves around the concept of "user-centricity." Teams that prioritize understanding user needs and actively incorporate customer feedback have shown a remarkable 40% higher organizational performance. This finding applies to every one: product development teams, operational teams, platform engineering teams and engineering leaders.

Balanced product development and delivery teams prioritize user needs, ensuring they build the right things sustainably.

Operational teams, like those practicing site reliability engineering, should align system optimizations with user expectations to avoid issues like slow performance and platform engineering teams should view developers as their users, identifying and reducing friction points.

Leaders play a crucial role by incentivizing a user-focused approach, moving beyond mere feature delivery or outage reduction metrics.

Table 1. Effects of user-centrism.

Technical capabilities that predict performance.

On the report, DORA point out the correlation of different technical capabilities and the performance of teams.

This year, the researches from DORA investigated the following technical capabilities and their correlation with performance and well-being: AI, Trunk-based development, loosely coupled architecture, continuous integration and rapid code reviews.

Table 2. The effect of some technical capabilities on team performance.

Its very interesting to see the presence of AI in the report, however, at least for the moment, there is no clear evidence that the use of AI in different processes correlates with higher performance.

There is a lot of enthusiasm about the potential of AI development tools, many large enterprises that participated in the survey incorporated at least some AI into the tasks the researches asked about. But I anticipate that it will take some time for AI-powered tools to come into widespread and coordinated use in the industry.

On the other hand, loosely coupled teams, or teams that have loosely coupled architecture are able to make significant changes to their systems without involving other teams. This enables teams to move faster. And as shown on table 2, this capability is the only one that has a significant increase in all types of performance studied.

Somehow, having loosely coupled teams, also helps having faster code reviews. When subject-matter experts are closer to the team, they can review code faster because they have a better understanding of the impact of the changes. A loosely coupled design enables the team to test, build, and deploy without other teams being a potential bottleneck.

Teams with shorter code review times have 50% better software delivery performance. Efficient code review processes lead to code improvements, knowledge transfer, shared code ownership, team ownership, and transparency.

And finally these two capabilities both have a clear positive effect on employee well-being, decreasing burnout and improving job satisfaction and individual productivity.

Table 3. The effect of technical capabilities on developer well-being.

Good documentation as a multiplier for other technical capabilities

Table 4. Impact of documentation amplifying technical capabilities effect on organizational performance.

As shown in the paper, quality documentation is foundational. It drives the successful implementation of technical capabilities and amplifies the impact those capabilities have on organizational performance.

It is incredible to see that good documentation causes an outstanding 12.8x effect on trunk-based development. However, it is important to keep in mind that trunk-based development wasn't the most impactful technical capability, as stated in table 4.

Quality documentation plays a crucial role in enhancing various outcomes, including team performance, productivity, and job satisfaction. This finding is not a huge surprise as having clear documentation enables individuals to have a better understanding of how to complete tasks efficiently. Moreover, when knowledge is shared through documentation, it reduces frustration and facilitates smoother workflow collaboration within the team.

Table 5. Effect of documentation on well-being.

Table 6. Effect of documentation on key outcomes.

The Impact of Culture.

Good culture impacts people's well-being, that’s easy to see. Similarly to the discussed effect of user-centricity, some aspects of culture are clearly correlated with performance and have positive impact in technical capabilities.

The different aspects of culture studied are the following:

Table 7. Aspects of culture studied in the survey.

Its very interesting to see how this different aspects on culture affect technical capabilities, as you can see in table 8. If you think about it, it makes sense, these capabilities are not easy to implement and require people to work together, have an open mind, and learn from each other.

Table 8. Effect of different aspects of culture on technical capabilities.

As culture has an impact on technical capabilities, it also affects the effectiveness of those capabilities in driving performance. The different aspects of culture studied in the report play a significant role in team performance, organizational performance, software delivery performance and operational performance, as shown in table 9.

Table 9. Effect of different aspects of culture on key outcomes.

In a nutshell

In conclusion, the 2023 DORA Report provides valuable insights into driving engineering excellence and improving software delivery capabilities. The findings highlight the importance of user-centricity, technical capabilities, good documentation, and a positive culture in achieving high organizational performance and well-being.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss further about engineering efficiency, feel free to reach out to me at marco@pullpo.io. I'm always happy to chat and share insights.