In the past, production lines were plagued with quality control issues, under productivity and even logistical blocks. Take for example the motor car. Till very recently, it was acceptable to expect the vehicle to be unreliable and even in certain case have parts of the body and trim fall off the car as you drove it (Leyland anybody?).
But as the car became a more accessible means of transport to people, many thought “Hey, if I am investing considerable sums of money into a transportation mode, I expect it to be reliable at least most of the time and have very little maintenance to do. Oh, and I would very much like to listen to music on the radio and not the sound of it crashing to the floor every time I accelerate.”
Enter the Japanese and the Toyota Motor Corporation. They were the first to embrace a philosophy called Kai (Change) Zen (Good) = Change is Good. This approach led to a revolutionary shift in production and delivery quality by introducing the concept of a quality circle which was run by the employees themselves. Kaizen meant that production related problems could be solved with efficiency, standardisation and team work in a fast and effective manner resulting in a solution within hours or even days. This resulted in a high-quality product reaching customers that was reliable, safe and consistent in its functioning.
Swap a production line for a software development line and we get Continuous Delivery. Many of the principles of Kaizen found their way into Continuous Delivery and the ethos of Development Operations (DevOps).
In the early days of software development, many programs remained unchanged or error free for years. Updates and improvements only came about once a new version was to be rolled out. This meant the development cycle was a slow behemoth that didn’t need to worry about fast paced adaptability.
But, as the internet soon grew into a phenomenon and connected people in amazing ways, so to was the demand for apps, tools and software that could take advantage of it. Suddenly in the late 90s you had mass consumerism flood business through online stores like Amazon and Ebay. Software evolved into apps to be used on smartphones. This meant a user base in the 100s if not millions.
This meant software quality, robustness and security were put to test every hour as opposed to every year. At first development companies found it difficult to cope, until someone discovered certain concepts from the manufacturing industry can be adapted to enhance the speed and efficiency of the development process and bring development and operational teams together and work closely with each other.
Just like standardisation and automation would help Toyota reach amazing heights of quality so too would it benefit software development companies to speed up their processes in attending to customer needs and in ensuring a stable program throughout.
The main benefits of a Continuous Delivery led organisational structure are:
- Low risk: automation of key processes from quality assurance, testing, bug analysis will help streamline developments and updates into smaller increments that can be launched faster and gradually with less stress. Transparency across operations and development also ensure a seamless flow from identification to rectification and finally launch to the public.
- Faster time to market: traditional models of development can take weeks or months, Continuous Delivery software delivery lifecycle and the elements within it seeks to streamline and improve efficiency and transparency which will result in less reworking.
- Higher quality: automation of tasks brings a level of standardisation
- Lower cost: automation and standardisation leads to lower costs
- Better products: Thanks to more efficient processes and testing systems, the quality of the product automatically rises and remains consistent as well.
- Happier Teams: lower burnout, less conflict and more transparency all lead to a more positive work environment.
Continuous Delivery revolves around 4 key sections:
The above 4 sections are governed by these key principles:
- Build quality in: reduce mass inspection done in a separate queue, incorporate it into the development cycle and automate as much as possible.
- Work in small batches: do not wait for a months’ worth of code, take the bugs or elements in small sections and release them incrementally. This makes tackling a problem easier.
- Computer perform repetitive tasks, people solve problems
- Relentlessly pursue continuous improvement
- Everyone is responsible
At Gapstars, our early adoption of a Continuous Delivery based organisational culture has helped us be more agile towards changing customer requirements and ensure a consistent high quality of service and delivery. Even under a Remote Team concept with the main development teams based in Sri Lanka, Continuous Delivery has helped ensure a tight knit and transparent team of people who do not feel overwhelmed or understaffed by the tasks at hand. “Continuous Improvement” just like at Toyota has been a byword in our approach to providing remote IT solutions to our clients.
On a final note, “resistance to change” is the biggest hurdle to overcome when adopting a new culture or work process. The first and biggest change needs to be in the mindset of the management. Humans are naturally creatures of habit, they like order, consistency. Once they have a routine down pat, it is very difficult to change their mind about improving it or changing it. Yes, change can hurt but the benefits will pay off in the long run and your company and workforce will be better for it. If Continuous Delivery is something you believe can help your company improve and adapt faster, then present it to the board, highlight:
- Proven case studies
- Estimated improvement numbers
- Financial savings and values
The above should at least get the management to consider a change and perhaps run a trial.
Interested to learn more about Continuous Delivery and the various elements within it? Comment below and we can include more detailed information in upcoming blog posts. To know more about Gapstars and how you can become a part of the family or partner with us, head to our website.