The 7 dimensions of a DevOps initiative

Patrice Corbard - SD ReFocus Founder, March 2022

7 dimensions devops eng

Why propose a new model? Isn't it reinventing the wheel?

As soon as we see an article presenting a new model, these questions legitimately arise. Before designing this 7-dimensional model, I studied those proposed by frameworks or consulting firms. There are many elaborated according to different perspectives (Lean, Digital, Engineering, Leadership, Management...), each coming with its own vocabulary.

Since I couldn't find a model that matched my own experiences, I decided to design a holistic model covering the different facets of a DevOps transformation initiative.

A holistic model of the facets of a DevOps transformation

The model covers both operational enablers (people, processes, and technologies) and managerial enablers (organization and improvement).

It clearly places the key role of leadership at the heart of driving such an initiative, the cultural aspects as the foundation of all dimensions, and the outcomes as a purpose to align the entire approach.

The model is also the result of visual representations choices:

  • The circular shape to symbolize a 360° holistic view of the dimensions;
  • The photographic metaphor and the focus on the dimensions according to each context.
SD ReFocus Holistic Model

Lean principles for a continuous improvement dynamic

While the dimensions provide a comprehensive view of an initiative, the key to success lies in the dynamic of continuous improvement.

SD ReFocus - lean thinking eng

In order to develop and then implement its vision, leadership can rely on the cycle of lean thinking principles:

  1. Specify the value expected by customers, and therefore the outcomes to be achieved;
  2. Identify and map the value streams involving the different functions of the organization;
  3. Make the flow of work seamless by improving processes and technologies and developing team skills;
  4. Optimize the end-to-end flow in a systemic vision driven by customer needs (pull versus push);
  5. Progress step by step towards perfection so that the number of steps and the time to serve the customers are continuously improving.

A model for refocusing software delivery on what really matters

Even if they provide real benefits, transformation initiatives (agile, DevOps/DevSecOps, SRE,...) do not always succeed in delivering or demonstrating the expected customer value.

« We believe that members of software value chains can use lean to refocus on what really matters in their specific situation. »

Two main characteristics and reasons to adopt a lean approach:

  • Focused on customer satisfaction to align all stakeholders with a shared vision and business objectives;
  • Driven by an end-to-end systems view combining engineering and human dimensions, rather than an approach focused on technology implementation and local optimizations at the level of each specialized group.

Depending on its specific situation and needs, an organization may need to move from traditional practices to modern software delivery practices. The summary table below shows the macro trends observed on each of the dimensions:

SD ReFocus - Trends dimensions

A scientific approach to progress step by step

It would be illusory to think that a single dimension can solve everything or that it is enough to identify the first or most important one.

« All dimensions are interconnected and form a complex socio-technical system. »

The method to reduce this complexity is to move forward in small steps, hypothesize, deal with one problem at a time, measure the results and confront them with the initial hypothesis, i.e., to take a scientific approach to problem solving.


This model was developed because we could not find a description of the dimensions experienced on DevOps initiatives. If you know of other equivalent models, please feel free to share them in the comments or contact me (

This modeling exercise also provides clarity on the approach taken to assist SD ReFocus clients in their initiatives. This is only a first version and will evolve based on usage, feedback and the evolution of our disciplines.

Finally, this model seems generic enough to be applied to other transformation initiatives.


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