One of the most pressing issues that software development organizations strive to overcome is the challenge of providing users with a quality product in a quick and cost-effective manner. In order to solve this problem and better satisfy their customers, a growing number of companies are adopting a continuous delivery model for software development and release.
The adoption of continuous delivery does not come without constraints, but these obstacles can be overcome with some strategic changes at the organizational and process level. By adopting a continuous delivery model, organizations are better able to satisfy customer needs, stay ahead of the competition, and provide the most innovative solutions.
Current Delivery Constraints
The constraints to continuous delivery are spread throughout the organization and penetrate to the project, program, and enterprise level. In order to understand the benefits of continuous delivery, it is helpful to explore some of the current people- and process-related constraints in providing quality solutions to customers at an accelerated pace.
Three specific challenges that delay product releases and prevent continuous delivery are related to process, infrastructure, and management.
• Lengthy Processes: Manual testing, task-based checklists for release management, and other project management-related delays cause bottlenecks that prevent progress.
• Infrastructure: Software organizations using physical servers and performing manual configurations face cost- and labor-related constraints that take time and effort away from the core project focus (moving the solution toward release).
• Governance: Releases are delayed while awaiting approval from committees or senior executives.
Organizations can significantly mitigate the above constraints by adopting some core continuous delivery practices and focusing on key continuous delivery best practices.
Core Focus Areas for Continuous Delivery
While successful adoption requires a high-level examination of all processes across the organization, there are a few best practices when moving toward a continuous delivery methodology.
• Agility: While continuous delivery doesn’t necessarily require an agile development organization, it does require the software team to strategically focus on simultaneous, incremental builds. Optimize efficiency by ensuring that one specific group or process is not holding up an entire release cycle.
• Investment: New software tools and technologies are required in order to overcome some of the constraints presented by manual processes and infrastructure. Replacing manual testing roles with automated tools and upgrading infrastructure to virtualized platforms are two ways to make an investment in continuous delivery.
• Automation: The QA role is critical in any software organization, but it also causes one of the most significant delays in the release cycle. Save time by replacing manual testing teams with automated testing suites for unit, acceptance, regression, and functionality. Automation is also helpful in speeding up infrastructure-related delays; leverage automated provisioning tools and workstations wherever possible.
• Release strategy: Continuous delivery requires strategic re-structuring of the entire release strategy. Software development teams must design and execute software development processes in a way that takes into account known time constraints and prioritizes both quality and speed. Stakeholders can start this process by first adopting a continuous delivery perspective, and secondly by using this perspective to examine and reconsider the existing release process.
Continuous delivery benefits both development teams and the organization as a whole by encouraging efficiency, enabling adoption of the latest technologies, and providing customers with quicker access to the solutions they need.