Lead time for changes is defined by the time it takes a commit to get into production in DORA metrics. From a developer experience perspective, we are talking about how efficient and intuitive the process is and how comfortable developers are with the tools, processes, and workflows throughout the entire software development lifecycle.
Lead time can provide valuable insights into the developer experience in different ways.
When we examine lead time from a developer experience perspective, we’re essentially analyzing the efficiency, intuitiveness, and ease of use of the tools, processes, and workflows that a developer interacts with throughout the software development lifecycle.
- Workflow Efficiency: A shorter lead time generally indicates that the workflows developers are following are efficient. It suggests that there’s a high level of automation in place, reducing the need for time-consuming manual tasks. This allows developers to focus more on coding and problem-solving, which is what they are primarily interested in and where they add the most value.
- Tool Usability: The speed from commit to production can also reflect the usability of the tools developers are working with. Tools that are intuitive and easy to use can significantly speed up the software development process. Conversely, complex tools with a steep learning curve can slow things down and lead to frustration. An example of this dichotomy in CI/CD- Jenkins and Gitlab – while Jenkins is widely used and automates various phases of software delivery it is also criticized for its complex setup process, outdated user interface, and steep learning curve, which can hinder developer productivity and satisfaction. Gitlab, on the other hand, a more modern CI/CD tool, provides a more streamlined and intuitive user experience. The workflow configuration is as simple as adding a YAML file in your repository, and it integrates natively with the Gitlab platform that developers are already using for their code. This can simplify the process of setting up automated build, test, and deployment pipelines, thus reducing the lead time.
- Collaboration and Communication: Effective DevOps practices require close collaboration and communication between developers, operations teams, and other stakeholders. A shorter lead time can indicate that developers are communicating well with their colleagues, issues are being addressed promptly, and there’s a culture of shared responsibility, all of which contribute to a positive developer experience.
- Feedback Loop: The sooner developers can see their code running in a production environment, the faster they can get feedback on their work. This not only improves the quality of the software but also contributes to a sense of achievement and motivation. Developers can learn from mistakes, improve their skills, and see the direct impact of their work.
- Problem Solving: A shorter lead time means that issues are detected and solved quicker. This reduces the time developers spend debugging and resolving problems, improving their overall experience.
- Learning and Growth: Rapid lead time cycles can promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Developers can experiment, take risks, and innovate, knowing that they can quickly correct any issues that arise.
However, while lead time is a useful metric for assessing the developer experience, it’s important to consider other aspects as well. Developers’ satisfaction with their work environment, the quality of documentation and support, the level of autonomy they have, and the opportunities for learning and professional growth they receive are all critical components of the developer experience.
In summary, lead time is a powerful metric that, when used in conjunction with other measures and qualitative feedback, can provide a comprehensive view of the developer experience within a DevOps context. By focusing on improving this metric, organizations can create a more positive, productive, and satisfying experience for their developers, ultimately leading to better software and happier customers.