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Bad DevOps leads to developer burnout, survey finds

Won't somebody please think of the developers? Blame tools, blame leadership, but the lofty DevOps goal of faster delivery time too often leads to burnout, a new survey finds.

Everybody's talking about DevOps right now, and it's easy to see why. In theory, it sounds so appealing, with little or no downside. Release faster! React better! Be smarter! Collaborate! Automate! Win!

But that's the catch -- in theory. As it turns out, according to a recent survey, achieving DevOps' idealistic goals of eliminating silos, increasing collaboration and automation, and cutting down on delivery time (all without developer burnout) is a lot harder than it seems and comes at a much greater price.

The 2017 DevOps Pulse survey, conducted by Logz.io, surveyed 700 respondents from around the world and -- in addition to gathering information about their companies, roles and processes -- asked about DevOps adoption, efficacy (or lack thereof), challenges faced and more. Of particular note, however, were the questions about DevOps culture, where certain difficulties and harsh realities became more apparent.

For instance, 51.28% of respondents cited a lack of time as an issue with DevOps implementation, which serves to demonstrate the somewhat impractical hopes of DevOps. There are only so many hours in your average workday, where organizations should strive to promote the best work possible to avoid developer burnout. So it's not exactly a surprise that companies aren't finding that faster time-to-market and more stable/frequent releases can be achieved in the same amount of time with just new tools and processes.

DevOps burnout

While it's easy to dismiss concerns about a shortage of time with, "You're not doing it right," these aren't exactly anomalous numbers, nor does there appear to be a lack of effort. In fact, the respondents' attempting to do DevOps already appears to be stretching them thin, with 38% saying "yes" and 32% preferring "maybe" when asked if they could see themselves burning out. Similarly, when asked to rate the amount of pressure they feel at work on a day-to-day basis (from one to five, with the latter being the most stressed), 34.23% of respondents gave either a four or five, and 40.54% gave a three.

DevOps isn't the silver bullet I fear too many execs think it is.

It's also worth noting that only 35% of the respondents were developers, so the pressures of DevOps may not even be fully conveyed by the survey. Continuous development can be very demanding for developers, and 30.10% of respondents even said that "putting developers on call" is actually the hardest part of DevOps implementation. If this is any indication, these numbers about stress and burnout would likely be higher if more developers were surveyed.

The problems don't end with developer burnout and time constraints either, with many companies discovering that the goals of DevOps are just too far out of reach. When asked how effective they are at eliminating developer-operations silos, for example, nearly half (47.9%) said either "No silos is possible only in theory" or "a little effective."

Why is automation so hard to achieve?

Automation -- along with culture -- is the engine that drives DevOps initiatives. But according to a recent LogiGear survey, 90% of testers said less than 50% of their testing is automated. Automation levels across the industry vary widely, but all agree the pressure is on to automate.

Of course, these alarming numbers could signify a greater need for the kind of transformational leadership cited in Puppet's most recent State of DevOps report. It's the suits upstairs! It's their fault! Or maybe these shops don't have access to the proper tools. Either way, try telling that to the grunts burning themselves out day in and day out.

DevOps isn't the silver bullet I fear too many execs think it is. The picture that these survey results paint is that organizations are likely to execute DevOps poorly despite their best intentions or enjoy a watered-down version of the impossibly idealistic, win-win promises of DevOps. Blame the tools, or blame the execs. Too bad it's the folks actually doing the work that suffer.

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