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Mean Time to Repair - How to Use & Improve It

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Last updated on
October 4, 2023

A QUICK SUMMARY – FOR THE BUSY ONES

Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) is a metric that measures the average time it takes to fix a software application or system when it has an issue or failure. It is an important performance indicator for software development and IT operations teams, as it shows how quickly they can identify and resolve problems that occur in production.

Reducing MTTR can improve software quality in several ways:

  1. Faster issue identification helps prevent bugs and negative user experiences.
  2. Quick issue resolution improves software reliability, reducing downtime.
  3. Faster issue resolution increases team efficiency, boosting productivity and allowing them to focus on other tasks.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Mean Time to Repair - How to Use & Improve It

Introduction

Measuring MTTR can help organizations optimize incident response processes, reduce downtime, and improve customer satisfaction. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of MTTR, how to measure it effectively, and how to derive the right conclusions from it to improve software delivery performance. Let's dive in.

What is Mean Time to Repair?

Mean TIme to Repair definition

Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) is a software delivery performance metric that measures the average time it takes to fix a software system after an incident or failure.

In other words, MTTR is a measure of how quickly your team can identify and resolve issues that impact your software systems. It's an essential metric to track because it can help you identify weaknesses in your software delivery pipeline and optimize it for maximum efficiency.

MTTR includes the duration for notifying technicians, diagnosing the issue, fixing the problem, and setting up, testing, and starting up the asset for production.

MTTR is often measured and reported regularly, such as daily, weekly, or monthly, to track changes in incident response times over time. You can use it to identify trends, such as increasing MTTR, that may indicate problems with incident response processes or system reliability.

Benefits of measuring and improving MTTR

Mean Time to Repair benefits

Striving to low Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) can provide several benefits for a software system and an organization, including:

Reduced downtime

A low MTTR means that issues are identified and resolved quickly, reducing the amount of time that a system is unavailable. That helps to minimize the impact of incidents on business operations and user experience.

Improved system reliability

By quickly identifying and fixing issues, a low MTTR helps to improve the overall reliability of a software system. This allows you to increase user trust and confidence in the product.

Cost savings

A low MTTR leads to cost savings by reducing the need for expensive emergency repairs, decreasing the amount of lost revenue due to downtime, and preventing the need for additional staff to manage incidents.

Increased productivity

When incidents are resolved quickly, it frees up time and resources that you can use for other tasks. It leads to increased productivity and efficiency within your team and organization.

Better customer satisfaction

A low MTTR also entails higher customer satisfaction by minimizing the impact of incidents on their experience. It improves customer loyalty and retention.

Limitations of MTTR

Limitations of measuring and relying on MTTR

While Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) is a useful metric for measuring incident response times and identifying areas for improvement, it does have some limitations:

It doesn’t take into account the severity of incidents

MTTR only measures the average time required to repair incidents, regardless of their severity or impact. As a result, it may not provide you with a complete picture of the effectiveness of incident response processes or the impact of incidents on users.

MTTR doesn’t account for downtime before repair

The metric focuses on the time required to repair incidents once they have been detected. It doesn’t account for the time between when an incident occurs and when it is detected, which can be significant in some cases.

Mean Time to Repair can be influenced by outliers

MTTR can be heavily influenced by outliers, such as rare, complex incidents that require significant time to resolve. These incidents can skew the average MTTR and make it difficult to accurately assess incident response performance.

It doesn’t measure prevention or proactive maintenance

The metric doesn’t account for proactive maintenance activities or measures that prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.

How to calculate MTTR?

To calculate Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), follow these steps:

  1. Record the start time of the incident, which is the time when the system became unavailable or malfunctioned.
  2. Record the end time of the incident, which is the time when the system was restored to its normal operating state.
  3. Calculate the total downtime of the system by subtracting the start time from the end time.
  4. Determine the number of incidents that occurred during the calculation period.
  5. Add up the total downtime for all incidents and divide by the number of incidents to get the average downtime per incident.
  6. Subtract any non-repair time, such as time spent waiting for parts, from the average downtime per incident to get the MTTR.

The formula to calculate MTTR is:

<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>MTTR = Total downtime for all incidents / Number of incidents - Non-repair time</p></span>

How to derive the right conclusions from measuring MTRR?

Look beyond the numbers

Mean Time to Repair provides a quantitative measurement of incident response performance, but it's important to look beyond the numbers and consider the qualitative aspects of incident response as well. This includes factors such as the severity of incidents, the impact on users, and the effectiveness of preventive maintenance processes.

Consider the context

MTTR can be influenced by a range of factors, including the complexity of systems, the availability of resources, and the skill level of personnel. It's important to consider the context in which incidents occur and evaluate incident response performance accordingly.

Use MTTR in conjunction with other metrics

While MTTR is a useful metric, it should be used in conjunction with other metrics and qualitative assessments to gain a comprehensive understanding of incident response performance. This includes metrics such as MTBF, MTTD, FTFR, and SLA compliance.

Focus on continuous improvement

Measuring MTTR is an important step in identifying areas for improvement in incident response processes, but it's important to focus on continuous improvement rather than simply meeting a target MTTR. Regularly review incident response processes, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes to improve incident response effectiveness.

Automate CI/CD using rollbacks

Rollbacks are an important part of CI/CD automation because they allow you to quickly address issues that may arise during the deployment process. By having an automated rollback process in place, you can minimize the impact of any issues and quickly restore the system to a previous state.

When a system failure occurs, the automated rollback process can quickly restore the system to a previous stable state. This minimizes the time it takes to repair the system, reducing the MTTR and ensuring that the system is back up and running as quickly as possible.

Additionally, by automating the testing and deployment process, you reduce the likelihood of issues occurring in the first place. Automated testing helps to identify issues before they are deployed to production, reducing the number of issues that need to be resolved.

High MTTR? Here’s how to decrease it

To maintain a low Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), consider the following best practices:

  1. Establish an effective incident management process that includes clear roles, responsibilities, and escalation procedures. Ensure that all team members are trained on the process and that it is regularly reviewed and updated.
  2. Set up effective monitoring and alerting for your software systems. This can help you detect issues quickly and proactively before they impact users.
  3. Conduct thorough root cause analysis for all incidents to identify the underlying causes and address them to prevent future incidents.
  4. Regularly review and analyze incident data to identify trends and areas for improvement. Implement changes to optimize incident response processes and reduce MTTR over time.
  5. Use automation to streamline incident response processes, such as automated alerts, diagnostics, and fixes. It will reduce the time required to resolve incidents.
  6. Conduct regular testing to identify and address issues before they impact users. It will prevent incidents and reduce MTTR.
  7. Ensure effective communication among all team members during incident response. It will ensure that issues are resolved quickly and prevent delays due to miscommunications.

MTTR alternatives

Mean Time to Repair - alternative metrics

There are several alternative metrics to MTTR you can use to evaluate incident response performance and effectiveness:

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

MTBF measures the average time between equipment or system failures. It helps to identify trends in equipment reliability and can help organizations optimize preventive maintenance processes to reduce the likelihood of failures.

Mean Time to Detect (MTTD)

MTTD measures the average time it takes to detect incidents after they occur. It’s useful for evaluating the effectiveness of incident detection processes and can help organizations identify areas for improvement.

Mean Time to Respond (MTTR)

Mean Time to Respond measures the average time it takes to respond to incidents after they have been detected. This metric is similar to Mean Time to Repair but focuses on the time required to respond to incidents, rather than repair them.

First-Time Fix Rate (FTFR)

FTFR measures the percentage of incidents that are resolved on the first attempt. It’s useful for evaluating the effectiveness of incident response processes and the skill level of personnel.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance

SLA compliance measures the percentage of incidents that are resolved within a specified time frame. It’s great for evaluating the effectiveness of incident response processes and ensuring that service level agreements are met.

Summary

By measuring MTTR effectively and deriving the right conclusions from it, you can identify areas for improvement and take steps to enhance incident resolution times.

While MTTR is an important metric for measuring incident response times, it is just one of many metrics that organizations can use to measure software delivery performance. 

We encourage you to explore other metrics, such as lead time, deployment frequency, and change failure rate, to get a complete picture of your software delivery performance. By measuring and analyzing multiple metrics, you can identify areas for improvement and take steps to optimize your software delivery processes for faster, more reliable software releases.

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Authors

Olga Gierszal
github
IT Outsourcing Market Analyst & Software Engineering Editor

Software development enthusiast with 6 years of professional experience in the tech industry. Experienced in outsourcing and nearshoring market analysis. Our expert in presenting tech, business, and digital topics in an accessible way.

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