This blog was originally published on the CloudBees website on March 6, 2019.
In today’s digital economy, customers have become accustomed to continuous innovation at unprecedented speeds. To produce great applications and services that measure up to customer expectations, you need strategic software development supported by modern development and delivery processes. Business leaders need to be aggressive about driving the adoption of DevOps and continuous delivery within their organizations in order to support innovation at scale and boost competitive advantage. In this blog post, we’ll dive into why DevOps and continuous delivery (CD) are the single greatest changes your organization can embrace to fast track your digital transformation goals, and what you will need to do in order to get started.
Why continuous delivery?
DevOps is the philosophy and cultural process that guides developers, testers and IT operations to produce more software releases at greater speeds and with better results; continuous delivery is the methodology that helps operationalize DevOps principles. CD is about automating tasks to reduce manual interactions in the process of continuously integrating software and moving successfully tested software swiftly and more frequently into production. Project teams can make corrections and improvements along the way based on continuous automated feedback about what works, and what needs to be done better.
The move to continuous delivery and experimentation is a crucial part of creating a more agile landscape for digital transformation. The IT organization can get working software into the hands of customers sooner, by adding new functionality to existing systems in a piecemeal fashion and then work on improvements selected against a highly prioritized list of issues — dealing with the most pressing issues in the shortest possible time with the help of tight feedback loops. Products that were once released every few months with fanfare can now be updated every few days. Additionally, when incremental changes are released more frequently, it becomes easier to spot and correct deficiencies much earlier, and also roll back smaller changes when necessary to prevent unintended changes from entering the production environment.
A continuous delivery model gives your IT organization the agility and production readiness it needs to respond swiftly to market changes. It makes your teams more productive, your products more stable and increases your flexibility to facilitate fail fast and continuous innovation everywhere — as corroborated by a CloudBees study based on more than 100 business value assessments of enterprises in various stages of DevOps and continuous delivery implementation. Most dramatically, you can drive faster growth, help the business expand into newer areas, and compete more effectively in the digital age, with the increased responsiveness that this model affords.
DevOps is key for enabling CD
Continuous delivery best suits organizations that are equipped with a collaborative, DevOps culture. In a continuous paradigm where the end-to-end process from idea to deployment is optimized, you cannot afford silos and handoffs between development and operations teams. Companies that don’t embrace a DevOps-based culture and fail to knock down silos have difficulty building the kinds of IT and development environments that are required to compete in the digital age. At the end of the day, you can only be as agile as your least flexible team.
Instituting a culture that can allow for increased focus on relentless improvement is very much a people issue. In most cases, it calls for a significant shift in mindset and behavior. For instance, in order to achieve the continuous delivery goal of speeding up releases and increasing software quality, you need to make a smooth shift-left of various activities—such as continuous testing and security. This requires proactive, cross-functional communication at all levels of the company to bridge the gap that has traditionally existed among development, testing, security and the rest of the business. Misguided IT organizations will not be able to fundamentally change how they work, staying instead at a superficial level by only changing high-level processes and structures.
Another valuable organizational shift is to encourage autonomous teams. Development and operations teams need to be empowered to make their own decisions and apply changes, without having to go through convoluted decision-making processes. This involves avoiding bureaucracy, trusting teams, and creating an environment that is free of a fear of failure and rewards experimentation.
The road ahead
Continuous delivery enabled through steady, consistent DevOps practices will be key to customer success in the digital age. As with everything else, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to introducing and implementing these methodologies and ensuring success. But there is enormous value in starting small — experimenting, gathering feedback, learning, revising, and gradually expanding the scope.