Reduce Cycle Time to Deliver Value
How teams can meet business demand to innovate and remain competitive
Why does cycle time matter?
In an ever-changing technological landscape, the pace at which organizations release features can impact success. Reducing the time between thinking of an idea and having the code in production is vital to providing value to customers. If an organization is too slow to innovate, its competitors can rapidly absorb the market by becoming the first organization to meet the needs of customers.
Adding tools is not the solution
Agile planning and DevOps delivery have demonstrated reliable and scalable solutions to streamline and accelerate application delivery. Recently, deployment teams have taken advantage of new tools to assemble toolchains designed to enable automated integration, test code, manage digital assets, scan for vulnerabilities, and deploy and configure applications.
While these integrated toolchains help accelerate application delivery, they also introduce a new challenge in the form of complexity, islands of data, inconsistent security settings, reporting, and compliance issues. Each tool adds a new integration and a factor of complexity in a team’s workflow. What development teams now have is a complex, fragile, and expensive mashed-up toolchain, on which they are forced to waste cycle time tinkering on tools and not delivering business value.
A toolchain integration headache
The idea behind using a variety of tools is understandable: Teams can take advantage of the best software in the industry. But, having such a large toolset hinders progress rather than enables it, causing longer cycle time, a lack of visibility, and the creation of silos. These silos take overhead to integrate and manage, slowing down teams and preventing collaboration and communication. While it’s tempting to add more tools, a complicated toolchain is not the answer to reducing cycle time.
How to reduce cycle time
What development teams need is a simple, comprehensive toolchain that can easily build, test, and deliver applications without the waste and overhead of managing dozens of disparate tools and integrations. To resolve bottlenecks and wasted effort, development teams need to simplify their toolchains and establish solutions that incorporate multiple capabilities with fewer fragile integrations. Specifically, to reduce cycle time, teams should look for ways to consolidate interrelated development activities,
1. Issues and planning
The planning stage of the software development lifecycle has historically been a source of confusion and difficulty, with 25% of product managers struggling to create a consistent project management methodology or scoping document, according to The State of Project Management Survey. Teams must be able to capture, discuss, prioritize, and define requirements and use cases. A simple solution to understanding use cases and requirements from end users about the specific capabilities they need is to use issues. Using issues, product managers, delivery teams, and customers define use cases, elaborate on needs, and prioritize new features. Issues initiate future development and assist in the creation of comprehensive planning, since all scoping occurs before development begins.
2. Distributed source code management
Designing and developing applications is an intensive activity that requires managing branches in the source code, tracking frequent changes of multiple files, and merging and integrating changes to the main trunk. Distributed source control allows developers to work independently from a centralized repository and keep their work in synch with the larger team. A distributed source code management enables coordination, sharing, and collaboration across the entire software development team.
3. Code reviews and approvals
Peer reviews and rigorous approvals are essential to ensuring that new code changes address user needs and do not introduce logic errors, defects, or security vulnerabilities. Typically, approvals for code changes must be clearly documented and tracked to demonstrate compliance. This critical oversight and review process should be a core capability to ensure both quality, accountability, and compliance.
4. Continuous integration for every commit
Continuous integration is the cornerstone of modern software development, and teams that want to embrace rapid delivery require a CI pipeline to ensure the right sequence of automated tests, scans, and compliance checks. Continuous integration ensures:
a. Software quality
The CI pipeline manages an automated unit, API, and functional and nonfunctional tests to verify new code changes do not introduce new defects.
b. Security (code scans, container scans, license management)
Application security scans should be incorporated into the CI pipeline to provide rapid feedback about any software changes that introduce new vulnerabilities. It is critical to have security feedback as early as possible in the development lifecycle in order to minimize the risk of security issues delaying software delivery.
5. Repository to manage binary assets
The output of the continuous integration pipeline is the binary code and libraries which comprise an application. These assets must be managed and tracked through the testing, validation, and deployment of an application.
6. Continuous delivery
The continuous delivery pipeline automates testing and deployment capabilities so that software can be developed and deployed rapidly, reliably, and repeatedly with minimal human intervention. The CD pipeline can be a natural extension of the CI pipeline, continuing the assembly line of tasks from development to deployment into pre-production and finally production.
7. Dynamic test environments / infrastructure
In order to streamline development work, a development lifecycle should support dynamic test environments that can be deployed on demand to support the testing needs of individual developers and teams. Traditionally, new code changes queue up to wait for a limited set of testing environments and resources. A development lifecycle should take advantage of containerization and cloud technology to reduce or eliminate delays.
8. Incremental deployment
Rapid delivery requires reducing every change proposal to its absolutely minimally viable form to allow teams to ship almost anything within a single release, obtain immediate feedback, and avoid deep investments in ideas that might not work. Incremental deployments reduce risk and enable quick iteration, helping teams consider the full scale of development complexity but focus on moving a project forward with the simplest solution. Techniques such as canary deployments or feature flags give software development teams the flexibility to ship code quickly while actively managing and mitigating risks.
9. Application monitoring
Quickly delivering what customers want requires a modernized software development lifecycle that saves time, effort, and cost. Feedback from an application in production is an essential part of reducing cycle time. Rapid and actionable insight from application monitoring empowers product developers to detect issues, take action, and continuously improve an application.
The impact of faster cycle time
After reducing cycle time, organizations experience benefits throughout the business, including saving costs, developing innovative features, satisfying customers, and increasing competitiveness. When businesses get to market faster, they can continuously improve to deliver the features that customers want.
Contact us at GitLab@321gang.com for more information on how DevOps can help your organization reduce cycle time!