How to Become a Team of Elite Developers by@alexharris

How to Become a Team of Elite Developers

Alex Harris HackerNoon profile picture

Alex Harris

Founder at The world’s first fitness tracker for work, helping developers improve the way they work and feel

The 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report: Part 2

As we discussed in [Part 1] of our report, defining yourself as a ‘great’ developer is a little more complicated than simply setting the timer and seeing how much code you write. The Accelerate State of DevOps report – a data-driven annual research paper from Google Cloud’s DevOps Research and Assessment team (DORA) – takes a more holistic approach to the definition, measuring a variety of global teams against four software delivery metrics. Out of this data they then rank performance into Low, Medium, High and Elite.

We know Elite teams are leading the charge on the four Accelerate metrics, but how do they do it?

An Elite team is made up of elite developers, and thankfully the 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps report does explore some trends that highlight practices unique to Elite and High performing teams. Check out our sum up below for some actionable steps you can take to grow your developer skills and seriously boost your performance.


How to Become an Elite Developer

  1. Multi-Cloud Use

2021’s report confirmed the continued rise of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud use and threw light on the benefits this can bring to business outcomes. The most frequently cited reason for moving to a multi-cloud solution was to take advantage of the unique benefits of the different providers, with availability, disaster recovery contingency and legal compliance also factoring into the decision.

It’s telling that those who used a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud approach were 1.4 times more likely to excel in all four of the Accelerate metrics, as well as being 1.6 times more likely to meet or exceed their organizational performance targets.

  1. Embracing SRE

Whilst a relatively new movement, adopting Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) principles in alignment with DevOps can make very real improvements to software delivery and operational performance. With a focus on cross-functional communication and psychological safety, SRE promotes practical tools and solutions to boost a team’s reliability, including a metric framework built around service level indicators and service level objectives.

DevOps and SRE clearly share a common philosophy, and an approach that incorporates both has evident benefits, with Elite performers being 2.1 times more likely to implement some form of SRE practices than Low teams. Those who do are 1.8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes, making SRE an essential philosophy for great developers.

  1. Documentation

Well organized, high quality and easy to find internal documentation was another trend that the 2021 report found essential in the continual success of Elite teams. With complex ways of working using ever more complicated systems, clear documentation using tools like Confluence can be the difference between a team with a defined set of goals and processes, and one that grinds to a halt at the first hurdle.

The report highlighted that teams with quality documentation are 2.4 times more likely to report better SDO performance, and suggested the following steps to improve the way you organize the information your team shares:

  1. Document critical use cases

  2. Create guidelines for making future changes to documentation

  3. Ensure clear ownership over different aspects of documentation

  4. Embed documentation into the development process

  5. Recognise documentation work during reviews and promotions

  6. Security

Security threats only grow smarter alongside technology, so it is increasingly important to adopt the approach that security issues are an inevitability rather than a possibility, and integrate checks and practises into each step. 2021’s report continued to prove that successfully embedding security processes into the entire development cycle can have a direct benefit to software delivery performance and reliability:

  • Elite teams who reported having met or exceeded reliability targets were much more likely to have integrated security protocols throughout their development process – twice as likely as the other teams.

  • Across the board, those teams that integrated security processes were 1.6 times more likely to achieve their organisational goals, highlighting that a preventative approach to security can directly increase the value of a development team to a business.

Along with highlighting the above, DORA recommends the following actionable security steps in their report:

  • Test: Ensure security requirements are part of the automated testing process.

  • Integrate: Have information security (InfoSec) give insight during each step of the software process.

  • Review: Carry out frequent security reviews for all major features

  • Prepare: Ensure InfoSec are involved right from the planning stage of development, to give the team plenty of time to fix any concerns.

  1. Culture and Burnout

The final advice from DORA’s report shifts focus away from the technical side of development and instead encourages teams to analyse the culture fostered in the workplace, and how this might be directly contributing to or helping to mitigate that dreaded phenomena: developer burnout.


There were two standout culture markers to identify within a team, both referencing Westrum’s Organizational Typology:

  • Generative culture: With the cross functional, multidisciplinary nature of DevOps, it should come as no surprise that a positive feeling of belonging and inclusion within a team’s culture has direct benefits on performance, and goes a long way in helping to reduce burnout. In fact the report found that Elite performers meeting their reliability targets were 2.9 times more likely to work in a generative culture than Low teams.

  • Performance oriented: As opposed to power or rule-oriented organizations, those that subscribe to a performance based culture – one that promotes trust, innovation and risk sharing – were more likely to see high software delivery performance.

So now you know exactly how to define a great developer, and even have some tips on getting there yourself.

Whether you’re using integrated data to analyse your working patterns, benchmarking your progress against others in the industry, or using trackers to help avoid burnout and put your mental health first, the important thing is to start infusing your team and processes with data.


Alex Harris HackerNoon profile picture
by Alex Harris @alexharris.Founder at The world’s first fitness tracker for work, helping developers improve the way they work and feel
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