“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” is a common cliché about life that also gets thrown around when talking about DevOps. That’s because many organizations make the mistake of approaching DevOps as if it’s a static goal or destination to be reached, rather than a constant journey of IT and development integration and optimization. The DevOps maturity model was created for this reason—to help you conceptualize and visualize the different steps along the DevOps journey, so you can orient your business, see how far you’ve come, and determine where you should head next.
Using the DevOps maturity model, you can identify your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and focus your training on key areas that need improvement, allowing you to more easily advance to the next level. Before diving into the levels of the DevOps maturity model, let’s examine the key tenets of DevOps that all mature organizations have in common, so you can better gauge where you stand.
Key Principles of the DevOps Maturity Model
These four key principles of DevOps serve as a benchmark for assessing your own DevOps maturity level:
Culture and Collaboration
DevOps isn’t just about technology; it also requires an organizational culture shift. All stakeholders, from engineers to executives, need to unite in support of your DevOps journey. DevOps maturity requires efficient cross-functional collaborations, as well as realistic and consistent expectations from business leaders.
In a mature DevOps ecosystem, the boundaries between development and testing are eliminated. You should have a dedicated test environment for every product, and your testing should be automated. You also need to continuously analyze and validate your test coverage, and regularly carry out risk analyses to ensure you’re not leaving any gaps.
Automation is critical for achieving the continuous delivery and deployment schedule required for DevOps maturity. In DevOps, this is typically referred to as CI/CD, or continuous integration/continuous deployment. The goal of CI/CD is to preemptively find and eliminate issues with continuous testing throughout the software development lifecycle, enhancing software quality without sacrificing speed.
To advance through the DevOps maturity model, you need application architecture that’s designed to support your DevOps goals. Your architecture should allow for easy testing and fast deployments, with independent modules that can function (or fail) without impacting the work of others, clearly defined quality requirements, and protection against cascading failures. However, there’s no one architecture that works for all DevOps environments and infrastructure, so you’ll need to choose one that fits your requirements and aligns with your DevOps maturity goals.
The 5 Levels of the DevOps Maturity Model
Now that you understand the underlying principles required for DevOps maturity, you need to assess where your organization falls and determine how to advance to the next level. There are five levels that your company will reach on the journey to DevOps maturity. Though you can’t skip any levels, you’ll likely find that each stage is easier to reach than the last, with exponential acceleration as you’re able to worry less and less about minutiae and focus more on higher-order operations. The five levels of the DevOps maturity model are:
Level 1: Little Control
Level 2: Emerging
Level 3: Practicing
Level 4: Optimizing
Level 5: Leading
|At level 1, you’re in a traditional IT environment with Dev and Ops handled separately.
Though you may be planning for a shift to DevOps, you haven’t implemented any changes yet.
|You reach level 2 when your development teams shift their focus to achieving greater agility, and your operations teams begin working towards automation.
In level 2 you’re also starting to emphasize cross-team collaboration between dev and ops.
|To get to level 3, you need to implement well-defined automation and DevOps processes.
Your whole organization also needs to get onboard the DevOps journey and adopt these new processes and support your goals.
|By level 4, your organization understands your DevOps processes and is fully on board.
Your focus is now on optimizing your DevOps and implementing or improving your CI/CD.
|When you reach level 5, your DevOps processes are showing visible results.
Though you’re continuing to improve collaboration between teams and optimize business outcomes, you’re able to recognize achievements at the business, team, and individual level.
Getting to the Next Phase of Your DevOps Journey
Though there are distinct levels to the DevOps maturity model, you’ll notice that the last step still involves continuous improvement and optimization. Your DevOps journey will never end, and in fact, to maintain DevOps maturity you will need to constantly find ways to optimize your processes. It gets easier to advance through the DevOps maturity model as you get through the levels and optimize your processes, but you still need to continuously evaluate your skills and progress to ensure you don’t stagnate.
If you find yourself stuck at a particular level, and you’re unable to identify the areas you need to improve in order to advance, you may need to bring in outside DevOps experts to help you better leverage the tools and processes needed to get you back on track.