This is my review of Accelerate. I’ve long wanted to read this one. But I was procrastinating on it because in my mind I thought I’d already be familiar with its message. And to a degree that was the case. But I also found a lot of interesting information that I didn’t expect. Like the causal relationship between engineering practices and company outcomes. Both in the hard things like better financial results and accomplishing group goals. But also in the soft ones like improving team morale and job satisfaction.
The main idea of the book is that there are a core set of practices which have a very positive influence on a company. These span engineering, management, and culture. These reinforce each other too. And also causally lead to these the better outcomes from above.
The book has three main parts. The first focuses on the author’s findings. They start with approaches to measuring engineering organisations performance. Here they present the famous accelerate metrics. These are the delivery lead time, deployment frequency, MTTR, and change fail percentage. What I liked here was the focus on metrcs that are easy to measure and easy to translate across companies. These these chose to the detriment of more complete metrics like “feature lead time”. This is more accurate in the context of a single team. But it varies too much across companies or teams to be meaningful. After this they also looked at measuring culture, and the link between DevOps and better culture. The focus here was on Westrum’s generative culture and its benefits.
With these notions of performance out of the way, the authors went over the various factors influencing these metrics. They focused in turn on technical practices, architecture, infosec, management practices, team health, and leadership support. All had some clear influence on the performance metrics, with good causality established.
The second part presents the research approaches. There’s a very short introduction to pshychometrics and survey theory too. But just a scratch on the surface. At this point you kind of have to believe the authors. Or go and read their published research.
The third and shortest part is a case-study of ING Netherlands. More specifically their transformation from “the IT function” to a critical part of the business. Since my wife actually works there I could contextualize a lot of the information presented. And for the most part it was accurate and showcased a nice and complex transformation.
In the end I liked this book. I didn’t learn anything new. I actually somehow managed to work only in these sorts of environmens since forever. So they seem like “the natural and only way” of doing things. But it did reinforce the main approaches. And especially this idea of creating a continuously learning organisation. And I have some science to throw at people next time there’s an argument.