Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations [Review]

TL;DR: Accelerate

Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim latest book Accelerate: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations [advertising] describes the factors that drive high-performing tech organizations, derived from the data that has been aggregated with the State of DevOps Report since 2014.

Accelerate” [advertising] is a must-read book for anyone involved in building agile organizations and teams. It lays out a path to success based on a statistical analysis of data. It also puts an end to the popular narrative that ’becoming agile’ is somehow a fuzzy process. The data shows that there are patterns at all levels that successful agile organizations share.

In other words: becoming agile can be data-driven. (A hypothesis that I shared in How to Measure Agility of Organizations and Teams—The Results of the Agile Maturity Survey earlier.)

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Accelerate: How To Drive Improvement

Since 2014, Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim have been publishing the "State of DevOps Report." The report is a well-respected survey to help to understand how DevOps as a set of practices and cultural value supports companies improving software engineering and release practices, software quality, information security, and generally receiving feedback on product development. Thus, the "State of DevOps Report" supports the visualization of the contribution of DevOps to the organization's overall business performance, measured, for example, by market-share, valuation, and profitability.

Based on the statistical analysis of the available 23,000 data-sets, the authors identified 24 key capabilities that improve software delivery capabilities, falling into five categories:

Continuous delivery

There are eight success factors in continuous delivery:

  • Use version control for all production artifacts
  • Automate your deployment processes
  • Implement continuous integration (CI)
  • Use trunk-based development processes
  • Implement test-automation
  • Support test data management
  • Shift left on security (integrating security into the design and test phase of the software development process)
  • Implement continuous delivery (CD).


There are two success factors in (application) architecture:

  • Use a loosely coupled architecture
  • Architect [the application] for empowered teams.

Product and process

There are four success factors in product and process:

  • Gather and implement customer feedback
  • Make the work visible through value streams
  • Work in small batches
  • Forster and enable team experimentation.

Lean management and monitoring

There are five success factors in lean management and monitoring:

  • Have a lightweight change approval process
  • Monitor across application and infrastructure to inform business decisions
  • Check system health proactively
  • Improve processes and manage work with work-in-progress (WIP) limits
  • Visualize work to monitor quality and communicate throughout the team


There are five success factors in cultural issues:

  • Support a generative culture (as outlined by Westrum)
  • Encourage and support learning
  • Support and facilitate collaboration among teams
  • Provide resources and tools that make work meaningful
  • Support or embody transformational leadership.

Source: Accelerate” [advertising], appendix A, pages 201-207.

Accelerate - Conclusion

“If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine.” (Jim Barksdale.)

Becoming agile as a product team is an enormous undertaking in any case — not to mention the particularities of each organization involved in the process. Given the resulting complexity, suitable approaches to agile transitions have often been kept either fuzzy or deliberately superficial — every team has to figure out the way itself.

Now - with "Accelerate" — we have for the first time a robust analysis based on scientific principles available providing the data needed to reduce the level of fuzziness of agile transitions. Now we have at least a first guess at hands what practices might also work in our organization and where to head next.

In that sense, “Accelerate” [advertising] is an excellent value for the money and a must-read in my eyes for anyone involved in creating software today.

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Stefan Wolpers: Stefan, based in Berlin, Germany, has worked for 18-plus years as a Product Manager, Product Owner, agile coach, and Scrum Master. He is a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) with Scrum.org and the author of Pearson’s “Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide.” He has developed B2C as well as B2B software, for startups as well as corporations, including a former Google subsidiary. Stefan curates the ‘Food for Agile Thought’ newsletter and organizes the Agile Camp Berlin, a Barcamp for coaches and other agile practitioners.
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