DevOps Burnout: When the Shift Hits the Fan

January 22, 2016 | by Mike Maheu | Posted In DevOps

DevOps Burnout: How to Deal With It?

This blog post stems from a November 2015 article titled “Why devops is burning out developers.

What is DevOps?

The most succinct definition of DevOps is one by DZone Research: “an IT organizational methodology where all teams in the organization, especially the development teams and operations teams, collaborate and implement technology to increase software production agility and achieve business goals.” In theory, DevOps is meant to make software deployment so easy that it can be done iteratively many times a day. It’s more than just a deployment; it’s a movement.


The advantages of incorporating DevOps into software development practices are as follows:

  • Improved deployment frequency, which leads to faster time to market
  • Faster delivery of features, which is vital in a SaaS environment
  • Lower rate of failure
  • Shortened lead time
  • Faster mean time to recovery and resolution
  • Increased customer satisfaction


The promise of DevOps has led to its current exponential adoption rate. Gartner predicted that by 2016, DevOps would become a mainstream strategy employed by 25 percent of Global 2000 organizations. Puppet Labs’ 2013 State of DevOps Report, it was found that companies embracing DevOps deploy code 30 times more than the usual and that their deployment fails are less than 50 percent.


While DevOps certainly has its advantages, a phenomenon known as DevOps burnout has been occurring more and more frequently. Similar to the concept of adrenaline fatigue, DevOps burnout occurs when a developer must work at a more frenetic pace due to the demand of expedited software delivery.

Early warning signs that a developer might be at risk of DevOps burnout include:

  • Fatigue
  • Impatience
  • Increase in the number of bugs found
  • Identifiable stress


While the framework may have evolved to DevOps, but the culture has shifted. To solve this dilemma, a new class of engineers, known as site reliability engineers (SRE) has emerged. SRIs act as a conduit between development and operations in order to alleviate some of the stress between the two groups. It’s also up to company management to recognize burnout signs of employees, be proactive, and mitigate the risks of burnout.

This blog post serves as a cautionary tale that the DevOps mindset must match the process. In any organization, there needs to be a harmony among people (culture), the process, and the systems (technology).