This is a guest post by Ilan Rabinovitch, Director of Product Management at Datadog. The convergence of rapid feature development, automation, continuous delivery, and the shifting...by Ilan Rabinovitch
August 24, 2017
Everyone wants to optimize their team’s performance, but coming up with a good plan for doing so isn’t always easy. That’s why operationally mature DevOps teams use metrics to gain valuable insight into their work, enhance the their capacity, and drive cultural change.
Good data allows managers to make quick decisions with confidence and minimal risk, and it lets them see the actual (not perceived) outcome of those decisions, which can help them shape their direction going forward and make for a happier, healthier, and more productive team dynamic. But a shift to data-driven ideas requires more than just increased monitoring. It requires a cultural change.
Here we outline the key metrics that you should be monitoring and talk about how they can influence your team’s culture and performance.
Time to Response (also called Time to Acknowledgement) is all about your individual team members. Incident responders may not always have control over the root cause of a particular incident, but they are always in control of how quickly they acknowledge and respond. Hold team members accountable for their response time by setting internal targets and having high expectations.
You can enforce a response time target with IT Operations Management software like PagerDuty using an escalation timeout. If you decide that all incidents should be responded to within five minutes, then set your timeout to five minutes to make sure the next person in line is alerted. Tracking your escalations will also give you valuable data about your team.
For most organizations using IT Operations Management software, an escalation is an exception – a sign that either a responder wasn’t able to get to an incident in time, or that he or she didn’t have the tools or skills to work on it. While escalation policies are a necessary and valuable part of incident management, teams should generally be trying to drive the number of escalations down. Gauge your team’s performance by tracking the number of incidents escalated over time. This data will help you determine whether your target needs to be adjusted.
It should be noted that there are some situations in which an escalation will be part of standard operating practice. For example, you might have a NOC, first-tier support team or even auto-remediation tool that triages or escalates incoming incidents based on their content. In this case, you’ll want to track what types of alerts should be escalated, and what normal numbers should look like for those alerts.
As your organization grows, so might your incident counts. But as your team becomes more efficient and mature, the incidents per responder should lower or, at the very least, stay constant. IT Operations Management for DevOps can help your team get there faster by helping your organization weed out low-quality alerts, automate common fixes, and build runbooks.
This ensures that each team member is maximizing their time on attacking alerts that matter and building new features for your product, instead of getting mired in alert fatigue.
Raw incident count can also help you determine whether your team’s incident load is better or worse than the organization average. If you break down incident count down by team or service, you can put your numbers in context.
Time to Resolution is the highest standard you can use to measure your team. How long does it take your team to resolve an incident?
Every organization has a different baseline for TTR. Complexity of environment, organization of responsibility, even the industry in which they operate can all contribute to different norms for different companies. But downtime is expensive, both in loss of revenue and customer trust, and it’s important to track MTTR to make sure that your team is overall up to the challenges of a major incident.
Remember that your focus is on business goals, not numbers. Don’t encourage your team members improve their numbers without losing sight of why you’re tracking those metrics in the first place.
You should also avoid over analyzing the past. Metrics measure what has already happened, and while they can tell you a lot about your team’s previous performance, keep in mind that they should be used as a tool to a better future and not a means of assigning blame.
Metrics are a means to an end, and having more information than you need won’t help you improve your team and refine your business. Keeping the emphasis on subsequent action is the key to using metrics to drive cultural changes.