3 Reasons Why You’re not a High-Performing Organisation

ecs-admin 9th August 2017

Our partners, Puppet, released their annual State of DevOps report (SODR) last month.

There’s one point that stands out throughout – the huge improvements that organisations of all sizes are making in the speed of software delivery, using DevOps*.

In our consumer-driven world, business success depends on businesses finding ways to provide both differentiated and superior customer experiences. Fast and frequent software releases are key to achieving this. But as the software delivery speed gap between low and high performers is narrowing, it’s clear that metric alone cannot create high-performance. What are high IT performers doing differently, and why?

Here’s the three situations we see most often:

1. You’ve simply automated what you already had

Many businesses make the mistake of focusing solely on speed. Automating what you have can make a difference, but it will likely reduce productivity in the long term.

This is reflected in SODR results*, which show a widening of the change failure rate between high and low performers.

SODR authors theorize that this is being caused by a pure focus on speed, and not quality. Let’s face it, delivering poor quality software more often, does not result in happy customers. Instead of focusing on automating, businesses should focus on improving what they have as they automate, to achieve expected results.

At ECS Digital, we’ve seen many companies employ automation simply to keep up with the rest of the market: missing key transformation opportunities that automating presents, and leaving them with the same problems further down the line.  On its own, automation cannot help businesses meet the ever-rising benchmark of high performance. Delivered correctly, automation transforms how tasks are performed: their speed, consistency and traceability. It also frees up time for value-add tasks that may not have previously been achievable.

2. You’ve overlooked the importance  of culture in supporting software delivery

Mechanisms for achieving high-performance have evolved over the past 10 years. We’ve seen a shift from IT-focused solutions (using tools and islands of automation), to a focus on working practices (Continuous Delivery focuses on both working practices and tooling), to DevOps which places greater influence on culture to achieve high-performance.

A highly productive development team, producing well-tested and quality code on a daily basis may at first glance appear the answer to delivering services rapidly to customers. Yet, if that team has to rely on external teams with manual processes to deploy their code, or security teams to then test their code, their ability to deliver at speed is seriously diminished. This is reflected in SODR results*: whilst low-performers are moving at pace, their change-failure rate and ability to recover quickly is significantly deteriorating.

For these businesses, developing a culture that supports software delivery has not been considered a priority. Key areas include:

  • Transformational leadership: Teams with tranformational leaders are twice as likely to deliver high-performance than those without.
  • Adoption of Lean and Agile principles, including small batches, and earlier & continual feedback loops
  • Shifting left of security and testing.
  • Improving collaboration across all software delivery stakeholders.
  • Focus on customer experience and journeys.

High-performing organisations introduce the automation of software delivery strategically – not tactically – into their organisation. This introduction is not done in isolation, but supported by changes in culture to ensure that the bar of high-performance is achieved.

3. You’re not putting enough focus on continuous improvement

Becoming a high-performing organisation isn’t about never making mistakes; it’s about making mistakes as early as possible, and learning from them. High-performing organisations provide environments where failure is as a natural by-product of innovation. They conduct blameless post-mortems where failures are analysed, recovered from quickly, and used as a means to continually improve.

Being able to continually improve is key to both achieving and sustaining high-performance. Even the High-Performance Organization (HPO) Framework (a conceptual, scientifically validated structure that managers can use for deciding what to focus on to improve organisational performance) lists Continuous Improvement & Renewal as one of the key characteristics of a high-performer.

High-performers also continually measure and monitor outputs; allowing them to improve, simplify and align their offerings to what customers want.

Just as the consumer-world is constantly changing and evolving, the process of transformation within any organisation is an ongoing journey. Unfortunately for some, there is no set route to becoming a high-performing organisation. DevOps encompasses a variety of cultures, working practices and tooling. Its successful adoption requires an understanding of the specific needs of your organisation needs – as much as it needs experience and expertise to drive transformation.


ECS Digital offers consulting services to organisations of all sizes, to help them transform their business through the adoption of DevOps and Continuous Delivery practices. If you’re experiencing issues with your transformation journey, are not achieving the results you expected, have reached a blocker or need help assessing cultures within your teams, why not get in touch.

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