The traditional approach to product development and delivery can bring a roller coaster of anxiety and other emotions into business processes. Cycles are long, the stakes are high, and the people involved are often working outside their comfort zone when it comes to executing tasks that have direct implications on the success of the project.
When these processes go wrong, the cost and frustrations are further compounded. The significant time, money, and resource investments of longer-cycle development can bring many consequences. But the very nature of these cycles creates more risk and can affect how teams work together, as well as the end result of the project.
This is one main reason why shorter cycles have become favored among services organizations.
Why Continuous Delivery Matters
The shorter cycles of development facilitated by continuous delivery have, more or less, the same goals as longer-cycle development. The difference is that continuous delivery offers a more intelligent, battle-tested approach to managing these cycles, making it easier to deliver updates faster, with fewer glitches, and with greater internal efficiency.
For a services organization, a more iterative approach to development and product release offers a number of benefits. On the customer side, it allows you to push out updates faster, keeping processes and technology more up to date than if they were forced to wait longer before receiving more significant updates.
With continuous delivery, you are more agile, and fewer changes are made in a single update, which simplifies the delivery process and reduces the risk of errors. Meanwhile, development teams are constantly engaged in familiar tasks and processes, and continuous testing is in place to identify and remedy software glitches before they can wreak havoc on the customer-facing app.
Assessing the ROI Impact of Continuous Delivery
Continuous delivery offers both soft and hard ROI that businesses should consider when choosing their development cycle strategy. More tangible benefits are driven through optimized resource management, better allocation of human capital, and faster product or service releases—along with fewer errors that create unnecessary expenses for the company.
Meanwhile, iterative updates improve the customer experience, which can improve customer retention rates and support revenue growth. And by enabling faster development, you can offer a faster time to market, allowing your organization to be more responsive to evolving business opportunities and other changes in the business landscape.
The key to unlocking this ROI potential is ensuring you have a framework in place to support and streamline continuous delivery, leveraging this strategy for all the value it can offer your organization.
How to Support Better Continuous Delivery
Deciding to switch to a continuous delivery model of development is an important first step. But simply stating this desire isn’t enough. Instead, you need to have a strategy in place that will support your efforts and ensure success.
Here are some of the steps organizations should take to streamline their approach to continuous delivery.
Achieve Buy-In for New Development Cycles
If your employees and executives aren’t sold on this approach, you aren’t going to get the support needed to ensure the strategic shift is implemented with efficiency. With that in mind, the first step is leading a culture change that educates employees and other key stakeholders on the importance of overhauling the processes, the material changes this approach will bring to current operations, and the goals of such a move.
All strategic changes should be organized around strategic goal-setting, so leaders of this transition should define the goals of continuous delivery before bringing this proposal in front of the organization.
Streamline with Continuous Delivery Tools
Continuous delivery requires a significant overhaul to the workflows and infrastructure of your current development and delivery methods. A new strategy along with a new organizational mindset isn’t enough: The true potential of CD is only unlocked when this strategic shift is supported through the right technology acquisitions.
A continuous delivery tool should be the engine driving these changes on a functional level. This tool can provide a range of services that manage workflows, automate tasks, and ensure your infrastructure and processes are supportive of your CD strategy. For example, a continuous delivery tool uses delivery pipelines to build, test, and deploy new software updates.
This tool also needs to work with a variety of popular coding languages and development frameworks, and it should integrate with a number of different web services and software platforms—particularly any platforms that are integral to your business and your clients. If you’re a retail software provider that regularly deals with Shopify, for example, your CD tool needs to integrate cleanly with this platform.
You may also need your CD tool to make architectural changes to existing technology, including refactoring applications. Assess these needs beforehand, and make sure you find a software solution that can provide the framework your organization needs.
Automation should be baked into the entire CD process, including software builds and testing. Developers can use automation to accelerate these builds and reduce errors in the process, which allows for iterative development that isn’t disrupted or set back by errors that halt the entire workflow.
When it comes to streamlining continuous delivery, automation is essential. Accelerated timelines are dependent on the ability to automate time-consuming, menial tasks and optimize workflows throughout the development and delivery process. Seek out a CD tool that lets you customize this automation to serve your specific delivery needs.
Analyze and Improve
Through the data collected via software-driven delivery and automated tasks, your organization can use analytics to evaluate its continuous delivery strategy and enhance it over time. This includes identifying bottlenecks, quality concerns, performance trends, and other friction in the delivery process that impacts overall results.
With those insights in hand, leadership can oversee strategic changes designed to remedy these issues and optimize business processes even further. Consider combining your continuous delivery tool with business intelligence to identify opportunities through the use of artificial intelligence.
Validating Your Own Continuous Delivery Process
Before you bring your continuous delivery strategy live, take a critical look at the tasks and workflows to ensure you’ve created a framework that can deliver consistent results with the agility promised by this strategy.
For example, does your delivery approach allow teams to prioritize tasks and keep software deployable while still in development? And are there any points at which the software can’t be deployed to your user base during its lifecycle? (The answer to the second question should be “no.”
At the same time, your automation services should provide instant feedback on any changes made to your software, validating product readiness as new development wrinkles are added—this is the most important aspect of realizing automation’s value to continuous delivery.
The development theories behind continuous delivery offer incredible value and promise to organizations that implement this agile approach. But as with so many other business processes, execution is dependent on the right infrastructure to support these efforts. If you’re serious about guiding such a strategic shift, make sure you’ve got continuous delivery tools in place to support this digital transformation.