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SRE Maturity Model: How Do You Assess Your Team?

Myra Nizami

How do you evaluate your SRE team’s progress in implementing SRE? We discuss the key SRE indicators for evaluating your team’s progress in the SRE maturity model.

What is the SRE maturity model?

The SRE maturity model is a way of judging how far you are in implementing SRE principles. It is a method used by teams to understand where they ought to implement more SRE best practices to reach greater SRE maturity. The SRE maturity model is a way to balance growth with reliability and give SRE teams the roadmap toward growing in a safe and cost-efficient way. 

Why use an SRE maturity model?

Compared to other performance models, the SRE maturity model can better help you by looking not just at the results, but examining the process itself. Traditional performance evaluation, focused on outputs, can be influenced by a wide range of factors. To understand the impact of new practices and tools you’re implementing, the SRE maturity model highlights just the progress you’re making on this level. 

How do you construct an SRE maturity model for your team?

The first step in developing an SRE maturity model for your team is to come together to understand what the SRE practice means for your team. Every team is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and defining SRE within the specific business context is key. 

Scoring for SRE maturity models

Once the team has decided on what aspects of SRE are highest priority, the next step is to come up with a scoring system that judges how far implementation of each aspect has progressed. The SRE maturity score is an SRE engagement model for understanding how the team is performing and what the team's future will look like from an SRE perspective.

SRE maturity model levels

The general levels are tactical, strategic, and cultural. Tactical SRE maturity refers to how SRE practices enable increased productivity. Strategic SRE models judge how SRE pratices align with long-term business objectives. Finally, cultural SRE models focus on identifying technological and non-technological aspects that must be addressed for teams to embrace SRE culture

For example, the first stage of an SRE maturity model could be visibility, including establishing service-level objectives (SLOs), service-level indicators (SLIs), and error budgets. Defining and figuring out these key customer-centric metrics is critical for an SRE team

Once the metrics are established, teams need to focus on observing these metrics and proactively performing incident management and response. As the team begins to understand baseline performance and metrics, there can be more of a focus on automation to accelerate incident response since there is more actionable data being collected. 

On the other hand, a team might decide that incident management is the highest priority for their SRE implementation. In that case, the first stage of the model would be building an incident response playbook. The later stages would involve having processes to learn and adapt from incidents.

What are the benefits of an SRE maturity model?

You might be getting a sense of how an SRE maturity model can benefit teams. An SRE maturity model serves as an important marker for progress for businesses looking to accelerate development velocity without sacrificing the customer experience. An SRE maturity model lies within a DevOps maturity model, and it’s mainly used as a measure of reliability. 

A major duty of SREs can be responding to present incidents, but the SRE maturity model provides a pathway toward mitigating future incidents. It’s a way to propose changes and identify underlying factors for incidents that can be fixed moving forward. In addition, the SRE maturity model will provide a pathway toward regulating service reliability and bringing a sense of measurability. 

Bringing together an SRE maturity model will ultimately serve as a proactive measure that empowers teams to improve SRE culture by using SRE tools and automation to move activities through stages of maturity. There are clear steps that are mapped out, making it easier for everyone to be on the same page regarding what constitutes progress for SRE culture within the team. 

What could an SRE maturity model look like?

The critical thing to remember with SRE maturity models is that they are used to measure progress. How is the team doing now, and where does it want to be? Does the current infrastructure support that? And if not, what kind of tools and processes are needed to progress towards full maturity in SRE practices?

How an SRE maturity model comes together will depend on the team's technological capabilities, the SRE culture embedded in the team, and current activities. 

Example of SRE Maturity Model

One example of a SRE maturity model could be activity scoring based on the following criteria: 

  • Not performed or planned: Activities aren’t taking place in the team, and nor are there any plans to start them
  • Inception: Activities are planned or being developed
  • Active/manual steps: Activity is taking place but manually at the moment and is based on team capacity and workloads. For example, incident response might be a manual process at the moment because there are no tools in place for automated monitoring.
  • Active/automated: Activity is happening, and it’s automated. This could include continuous incident monitoring and automated runbooks for common incidents. 
  • Continuous improvement: Activity is taking place and is regularly examined for reliability

These are some of the stages of the SRE maturity model, and you can see a bit of a theme. Understanding SRE maturity is looking at where current activities fall into each category and where the future lies. So, for example, are certain activities going to be moved from the inception phase to active and automated? Or are there manual steps that can be automated? 

But the goal is to move through these models, starting from planned all the way up to active/automated and continuous improvement. The maturity score increases as teams implement new measures and tools for standard processes and eliminate repetitive work. 

How does Blameless help?

Blameless is a leading SRE tool that empowers teams to accelerate development velocity and implement measures to score higher on SRE maturity models. With Blameless, teams can move from the active/manual stage of the SRE maturity model towards the active/automated. In addition, Blamesss includes various features that eliminate low value work and enable teams to work faster and better. 

Tams can streamline incident response and management with powerful automation to eliminate manual work. With Blameless, teams have a continuous monitoring tool in place with features such as automated runbooks and proactively set up measures for incident response. Blameless collects real-time incident data so that teams have everything they need to address issues quickly and easily and run retrospectives after for continuous improvement measures. Sign up for a free trial today.

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