Continuous Delivery: What it is and how it can work for you
There’s an oft-quoted saying that if you’re on time, you’re already late. This is perhaps most true in the industry of software development, where emerging technology requires business owners to stay ahead of the game if they have any hope of being competitive in a rapidly evolving market. One of the best methods developers can use to employ this strategy is by practicing continuous delivery, a process by which software programmers can easily update and deploy enhancements, bug fixes, and new versions of their product quickly and effectively.
What is continuous delivery?
If you’re like most smartphone users, you’re probably used to seeing a symbol denoting an update notification in your phone’s menu bar. You may have even opted to allow your mobile apps to automatically update whenever new versions of software are available. This allows app developers to automatically deliver enhancements and fixes for any errors that have been reported. The transition is seamless to the consumer, but is the result of a sophisticated pipeline of programming and testing that has been laid in place. Using this tactic, developers are able to release software with a limited set of features earlier to consumers while others are still in production. Earlier release dates can then in turn mean the difference between a user choosing to download one app developer’s software to their competitor’s.
In previous years, software releases would often happen on a one-time-only basis, or, as in the case of Microsoft Windows and other platforms, would go years between new releases with only the occasional patch or update in between. These days, continuous delivery has taken the place of limited releases as the new standard in software, one employed by several SaaS firms including Pandora, Netflix, and Facebook. These industry heavy-hitters are encouraging other companies to follow suit; in a recent survey of 600 software developers, 97% responded that they are either currently using continuous delivery or plan to do so in the near future.
How to make continuous delivery work for your firm
The key to success in continuous delivery is to employ it properly to ensure profitability for your company as well as optimal consumer satisfaction. This can be achieved by keeping the following points in mind.
- Automate whenever possible. The automation of as many components as possible allows for changes and fixes to be applied instantly, limiting the changes requiring manual updates and streamlining reliability.
- Centralize assets. Dispersing assets and artifacts across multiple locations can be time-consuming and lead to confusion and errors. Containing these items to one centralized storage location optimizes simplicity and enables an environment with optimal delivery.
- Track all changes. Documenting and recording progress at all levels throughout the production process allows developers to keep track of changes and resolve errors, as well as to roll back to previous revisions when necessary.
- Promote visibility. Integrating all team members in development provides better efficiency throughout. Sharing ideas and making assets available to all departments while in production will increase productivity, encourage the generation of new ideas, and will allow team members to anticipate problems well before they arise or shortly thereafter, instead of just prior to or after release.
- Code is just the beginning. While code is the backbone of any software development project, it isn’t the part of it that your customer sees. When updating code to upgrade software or fix errors, developers must also remember to include enhancements for other features such as graphics and video as well. Advanced code has little value when its packaging is dull and amateurish. Improving on these features as well will retain current customers and attract new ones.
In the fast-paced world of software and technology, there is little room for error or delay. As consumers are provided with attractive devices with innovative new features and applications, the pressure is on the providers of these systems to stay ahead of the curve by providing fast, reliable equipment that is free of errors (or at the very least, can be updated and fixed in a timely manner). Consumers demand no less. With a fully integrated team, the implementation of continuous delivery can give software companies the advantage they need to get a leg up on the competition.