Continuous Development and Why it Matters

Oct 28, 2022 by Armory

Today’s fastest-growing companies are prepared to compete in a post-pandemic world, where consumers expect their favorite brands to deliver personalized, frictionless and innovative digital experiences. To help organizations learn more, we’re sharing this excerpt from from the ebook: Beyond Tools and Pipelines: How to Implement Continuous Development Successfully

Consider how leaders like Amazon, Netflix and Uber are disrupting their industries, and you’ll realize that the pace of innovation won’t slow down anytime soon. Customers have never expected more from software — in terms of delivery speed, quality and security — than they do now, and getting this right has never been more critical to your success. 

Continuous development is a front-runner among the organizational practices generating winning business outcomes. Like Agile and DevOps, Continuous Development began as a software development methodology. But Continuous Development’s most successful adopters aren’t just changing their approach to delivering software. Instead, they’re transforming their organizational cultures and encouraging a mindset shift. The result: developers and business stakeholders alike are embracing experimentation and treating software as the key competitive differentiator that it is today.

What is Continuous Development?

Continuous development, sometimes called continuous software development, encompasses multiple processes that automate and streamline the delivery of new features into production. 

These include: 

• Continuous integration (CI) 

• Continuous testing 

• Continuous delivery (CD) 

• Continuous deployment (CD) 

In CI, code from multiple contributors is committed and merged into a single central repository on a frequent or ongoing basis. Once the code has been integrated, it’s reviewed, compiled and tested. Automated tools enable all of these steps. 

Continuous delivery takes automation a step further, ensuring that all code changes are automatically deployed to a test environment after the build is complete. This creates an automated release cycle, allowing developers to push code to deployment at any time. 

Continuous deployment goes further still. Every change that passes all automated tests in the pipeline is automatically deployed into production. This means code goes straight from the developer into the hands of customers without human intervention, accelerating release cycles and increasing the speed at which real-world feedback is collected. 

An umbrella term that incorporates all of the above concepts, continuous development requires extensive automation across the delivery/deployment pipeline. The more manual steps are eliminated, the more autonomy developers have, and the more frequently code changes are rolled out, the faster you can innovate. Carefully specifying roles and responsibilities puts guardrails around the process, as does including extensive testing.

Benefits of Continuous Development

Continuous development allows you to release software to production at any time. The highest performers can deploy on demand (often doing so multiple times per day) with change fail rates under 15%. This enables businesses to respond rapidly to market demands, while maintaining the highest standards of software quality and reliability.

In addition, Continuous Development makes for:

Happier teams. Continuous Development emphasizes a culture of collaboration while enhancing individual control and autonomy. This allows developers to build stronger communities and take greater pride in their work. The result: higher engagement, job satisfaction and longer developer tenures. 

Faster time-to-market. Not only is it exponentially faster to commit, deploy and deliver new code, but it’s also simpler to add small features quickly and track their impact. This means that innovation is in the hands of end users sooner.

Rapid scaling for the product and the business. Employing consistent tooling and infrastructure enables development teams to work on any component, anywhere in the business. This promotes experimentation and fast growth. 

Higher-quality software. Continuous Development decreases the severity and frequency of defects, especially in mature organizations that leverage extensive automation. The result is greater velocity and momentum, as well as enhanced product quality. 

Consistent tools and standards across the environment. In development, consistency increases accuracy and repeatability. Well-defined processes and standardized tooling reduce context switching and allow individual developers to take end-to-end ownership of features. 

A smoother rollback process. Manual rollbacks are time-consuming and error-prone. Automation enables instant, effortless rollback to the last-known good version without disrupting the end user experience. 

Time and cost savings. Continuous Development organizations avoid the costs associated with downtime while speeding fault isolation, preventing feature rework and helping teams experiment and innovate instead. 

Simplified compliance. If security and compliance-related testing is automated and baked into your pipeline, the likelihood of a developer introducing an error that results in noncompliance decreases.

Why Continuous Development Must Be an Ethos, Not a Process

Part art and part science, Continuous Development is an overarching philosophy that enables enterprises to create and deliver digital products that their customers will love. Continuous Development and DevOps were once the sole province of software engineers and system administrators, but today they’re increasingly embraced and adopted – from finance and human resources departments to the C-suite. This is because the core principles of the Continuous Development mindset – collaboration, communication, frequent iteration, feedback loops and continuous improvement – create value across the entire business.

That said, enterprises can’t successfully advance their software delivery maturity without buy-in from everyone — extending from executive leadership down to individual developers. True change happens when organizational habits and deeply entrenched processes are transformed. This takes time, effective change management and commitment. Ad hoc implementation of a few new automated tools isn’t enough. 

Getting Ready to Move to Continuous Development

Changing how your enterprise builds software is a complex undertaking that involves multiple teams. How many changes you need to make and how sweeping they are depends on where you’re starting from.

Checklist: Are You Ready for Continuous Development?

  • Does your team practice CI across the whole of the development organization? 
  • Have most, if not all, of your monolithic applications been broken down into microservices? 
  • Have you automated unit, regression, acceptance and performance testing? 
  • Have you automated infrastructure provisioning for all environments, including production? 
  • Have you automated developer workspace provisioning? 
  • Have you automated the creation of documentation for every release? 
  • Have you defined service level objectives (SLOs) for your team? 
  • Do your service level indicators (SLIs) indicate that you’re consistently meeting or exceeding the standards you set out in your SLOs? 
  • Are you collecting the metrics that the DevOps Research and Assessments (DORA) team recommends you track to measure your team’s performance? (These include deployment frequency (DF), mean lead time for changes (MLT), mean time to recover (MTTR) and change failure rate (CFR).) 
  • Does it take you fewer than 10 steps to deploy new code into production? 
  • Does each new deployment take one hour or less to complete? 
  • Could you deploy to production on a daily basis if you wanted to? 
  • Have you automated the rollback process? 
  • Are development and operations teams in your organization fully integrated? Do engineers in your organization own applications they’re building from end to end? 
  • Do you have a single, consistent continuous delivery platform that all teams use across the entire enterprise? 
  • Do stakeholders — including business decision-makers — understand and embrace core DevOps principles?

At Armory, we’ve developed a five-stage model of software delivery maturity that outlines each of the steps on the road to Continuous Development and full-scale software delivery automation. Learn more about Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment. 

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