Book Review: Accelerate

As you know, I’ve been reading one technology book a month and reviewing it in this blog. For the month of September I read “Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations” by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim.

You may have heard of this book, because it has become an industry standard in the discussion of how teams can deliver quality software more quickly. After reading the book, I see why it is so well accepted.

Part I of Accelerate consists of the findings of the authors based on a worldwide survey they conducted of software teams. They performed statistical analyses on the results and arrived at the following conclusions:

  • High-performing software teams have:
    – more frequent code deployments
    – faster lead time from commit to deploy
    – faster mean time to recover from downtime
    – a lower change failure rate
  • There is no tradeoff between improving performance and achieving higher levels of stability and quality- you can do all three!
  • Teams can improve their performance, stability, and quality by:
    – creating comprehensive test and deployment automation
    – setting up continuous integration
    – shifting left on security (meaning, testing security while features are being developed)
    – managing test data
    – using loosely coupled architectures
    – working independently (able to deploy without being dependent on other teams)
    – using version control on everything, including build scripts

Part I is really the meat of the book. You can read this part and get what you need to know about creating a high-performing software team.

In Part II, the authors dive into the details of the research they did, from choosing the questions, to finding the people to survey, to using statistical methods to analyze the results. I think you can safely skip this chapter unless you are doubtful of the validity of the results in Part I.

Part III contains a chapter with two guest authors who are lean IT practitioners. They describe what a banking institution’s software development team looked like after they had adopted the strategies in Part I. I was a bit confused by the jargon they used and put off by some of the irrelevant details (for example, what the office space looked like- not particularly important in 2020 when so many teams are working remotely!).

Finally there are three appendices. Appendix A consists of a summary of Part I, which is really helpful if you want quick access to all the ideas. Appendices B and C discuss the statistics and statistical methods used in analyzing the survey data. You can safely skip these sections unless you are a statistician.

Accelerate is a great book for anyone who wants to help their organization deliver quality software quickly. If you are trying to make changes to your team in order to implement CI/CD practices and your manager is resistant, I highly recommend giving them this book. It’s clear from the survey results that the strategies outlined here will help teams become high-performing.

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