Continuous Delivery – A Catalyst to Accelerate your Development Cycle
Software updates have become faster and more seamless in recent years. Companies of all sizes and across industries have seen the advantages in avoiding large-scale releases and instead favoring a series of small, frequent changes — they’re moving toward continuous delivery.
Some of the most agile and effective digital-native companies have had continuous delivery in place for over a decade and use it as their primary operational method, shaping their workflows to work in small, fast-paced changes. When this change is made successfully, the businesses reap the benefits.
What are continuous integration, delivery and deployment?
Continuous delivery isn’t a monolithic process. Companies that accelerate their delivery can end up with one of a few stages of continuous delivery adoptions. While the theory is always the same — putting code into production more quickly, rather than waiting for large quarterly updates — the details differ.
Here are several of the categories companies’ engineering processes can fall into:
- Continuous integration: This means merging code changes and integrating work from multiple developers to create internal builds as often as possible. These builds remain in a more stable state and can lead to more frequent releases.
- Continuous delivery: Once companies reach continuous delivery status, they are releasing software changes to the public more often than they would under a classic, quarterly-update methodology.
- Continuous deployment: The method favored by many large-scale cloud software companies is based on constantly pushing incremental functional changes live, as soon as they’re ready.
Moving from continuous integration all the way to continuous deployment shows a deepening commitment to making small changes en masse. Once organizations have achieved continuous deployment, their public-facing software may change several times a day in near-imperceptible increments.
Businesses that gain velocity in this way are well-equipped to avoid the pain points that have traditionally come with planned cumulative releases, from introducing breaking issues to frustrating everyday users with drastic changes.
How are fast-moving companies benefiting from these methods?
With a high level of continuous delivery, a change to the software is incremental, in contrast to a cumulative release. Those large-scale updates can consist of hundreds of changes at once, raising the possibility of serious or complex bugs entering the code.
Continuous approaches tend to come with internal and external advantages, meaning they’re a win-win proposition for companies that successfully incorporate them into their workflows. The following are a few of the most prominent advantages of making this switch.
Top internal (developer) benefits of continuous delivery
Developers tend to favor continuous delivery, which is one of the reasons why it’s taken off so much in recent years. Software professionals know that shorter update cycles and smaller, continuous changes can make their own jobs go more smoothly.
With a high level of continuous delivery, the cost of error is lower than it would be with a large quarterly update. When every change that goes live is limited in scope, there’s less chance of unexpected outages and production issues — and, if such an issue does occur, it’s easy and quick to fix.
Breaking down releases into dozens of incremental updates allows developers to deal with each one individually. This is the opposite of releasing a large-scale update that affects major features and user experience. Errors in those updates can be time-consuming and difficult to spot and resolve. Continuous deployment relieves the pressure enormously.
Top external (user) benefits of continuous delivery
While developers are often the main parties pushing for continuous delivery methods, these workflows can also improve users’ experience with the software. A shift from major updates to incremental code changes creates a smooth, seamless relationship between project managers and end users.
Software developed on a continuous delivery model receives useful changes frequently. This means users don’t have to wait until the end of the release cycle to receive all the UX, security and other improvements at once as part of a major update. Furthermore, the system is less likely to break from incremental code changes.
When a company embraces continuous delivery, users can also stop worrying about dramatic or significant changes to the UX. Since the user interface will only change in small, incremental ways, users can follow their standard behavior patterns and stay productive. This removes the occasional chance that a periodic, scheduled update will alter or remove a feature, confusing user workflows.
How can businesses deepen their commitment to continuous delivery?
Adopting a continuous delivery engineering process isn’t something an engineering team should take on unilaterally. Business stakeholders should commit en masse to the new approach, giving it the best possible chance to succeed.
On the management side, there should be alignment between continuous delivery and the overall business planning. Conservative companies may have release roadmaps that mandate cumulative releases on a regular basis, — changing these is crucial if continuous delivery is going to catch on.
From the technical side of projects, companies will need to increase the amount of automation within development. Everyday manual testing makes code changes too slow for truly continuous delivery. If each alteration needs a manual sign-off from multiple parties, new code can’t go live quickly.
Digital-native companies may have risen with continuous delivery built into their regular product development processes. The challenge for other companies is to catch up to these cloud-era innovators. To do so, they’ll need buy-in from every level of the company.
What can companies expect as they increase continuous delivery usage?
Once businesses have received the go-ahead to shift from planned releases that happen once in a few months and become more agile, they’ll have to avoid a few pitfalls to receive the benefits. In the beginning, they’ll have to adjust their management processes to make sure tasks at every step of the software development lifecycle fit the new, accelerated schedule.
Learning to speed up
Everything a software development team does — ideation, coding, testing and releasing — should be adjusted. When these concepts are applied to smaller iterations, it’s possible to quickly check and apply smaller code changes, keeping the continuous delivery pipeline moving along. The company needs a quick way to split unstable code from code that’s ready to be shipped, allowing developers to get new code out the door as soon as it’s set.
Deploying automation and other development tools is another challenge organizations tend to face as they move towards a continuous delivery model. Some processes will be automated entirely, while others – such as support ticket response systems and design ideation and iteration – will be tweaked for speed. Once potential bottlenecks are removed, developers are free to embrace continuous deployment.
Reaping the benefits
With continuous deployment in place, advantages can emerge relatively quickly. It won’t be long before developers start to see the benefits that come with frequent, smaller code releases — from quicker responses to errors to better user experiences.
As long as organizations are ready to cope with the accelerated pace of continuous deployment, releasing clean code and quickly reverting when errors do make it to production, the move away from periodic updates should be a positive occurrence. Considering all that can go wrong with a major scheduled release, ranging from user dissatisfaction to the introduction of major bugs, a continuous approach is a natural progression.
How can experts help with continuous delivery?
Since the key to taking benefits from continuous delivery is readiness, that raises an important question: What’s the best way for a company to get ready for a painless transformation? In many cases, working with a team of experts leads to optimal results.
When organizations work with Transcenda, either on a consulting basis or a more hands-on engagement, they can make sure their journey into continuous delivery is on track. Navigating the challenges — from process changes to technology integration — is much easier, which lets businesses get straight to reaping the benefits of their new software workflow.
Transcenda can offer:
- Consultation on best engineering practices: Expert consultants can bring a business’s in-house team up to speed on the ideal workflows associated with continuous delivery. This may include test-drive development, code reviews and building pipeline and infrastructure optimization. Leaders need to know they’re ready to make continuous delivery work for them, and these conversations make everything more assured.
- Product management support: Organizations without large in-house development teams can still create first-class software through a Transcenda partnership. Teams of experts can take the lead on designing, deploying and maintaining software, using continuous delivery practices to ensure applications run to their greatest potential, with optimal performance and user experiences.
Whether searching for a way to enhance existing development processes or seeking a team of developers to spearhead a new software project, companies of all kinds can team with Transcenda to embrace continuous delivery. Now that this alternative to quarterly updates has become so popular among developers, there’s no need to go back.
Contact Transcenda today to get started.