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N. Forsgren, J. Humble, G. Kim. Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations. IT Revolution Press, 2018.
Accelerate is an influential book of advice for building and delivering software. I’m a practicing software engineer; I spend a fair fraction of my free time trying to get better at my craft; so, among other things, I read books. I read this one after coming across numerous positive references (example), and skimming several of the annual “State of DevOps” reports that the authors and their collaborators have published under the “DORA” (DevOps Research and Assessment) banner.
Accelerate investigates some important questions in software development that are hard to investigate. I believe that the authors are smart people who are trying their best. Gathering and analyzing this data was a lot of work, and I admire that effort.
Nevertheless, the claim to have scientifically validated a set of superior software development practices seems questionable. I find the authors’ approach inadequate to the task in multiple ways. Moreover, their use of statistical language, and rhetoric in general, is sloppy enough to raise doubts about whether the methodological issues go deeper than just the language.
As for what you should do in your software development organization: I came away thinking that the authors’ high level recommendations are mostly fine; see the appendix for a summary. However, I urge you to consider for yourself, from first principles, whether improvement along any given axis is the most valuable use of your limited resources, compared to other things you could be doing. For example, think hard about whether investing in improving deploy frequency is where you should spend your time now, and at what point you would see diminishing returns.
At this point, you might reasonably reply:
Yeah? Well, you know, that’s just like uh, your opinion, man. [The Big Lebowski]
Fair enough. Now the burden falls on me to substantiate my opinion. I’ll begin with a summary of the book’s line of argument, and then go into my criticisms.