Guest contributor, Bola Rotibi from analyst firm Creative Intellect Consulting
Laying the groundwork for solid foundations: Attributes supporting accelerated delivery
So “how” does one go about laying the foundations for accelerated delivery? Of course it is not always easy when one already has processes and tools already in place since changing established (or to put it more succinctly, ingrained) habits can be challenging. Our research was able to determine the core focus areas that must be addressed in order to support, manage and govern the workflow for accelerated or continuous delivery so that it can be successfully executed. These centred on having strong process foundation This means support for best practice operational processes such as Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), which addresses the governance of the application delivery process. It also means employing Agile development practices for planning and managing the delivery process and ensuring the delivery of working applications. Collaboration between key stakeholders particularly client ones will guarantee that the outcome is more in line with the client’s expectation and need at the time. The process foundations require a focus on DevOps to ensure smooth transition and handover from development and operations. This means having in place systems as well as processes that support that transition and handover processes to ensure a level of trust for both sides i.e. trust in the environment that the development team will be deploying the application into and trust in the code or application change that operations will be receiving from development. This is why we found Continuous Test, Build and Integration vital for ensuring a level of automation and validation and reinforcing the trust circle. It is also why ITIL/ITSM processes proved to be a common starting point for many operational departments looking to address DevOps. Strong process governance is another core requirement and this is fundamentally about having in place traceability of actions taken and a level of depth to the traceability, along with the completeness of audits in order to ensure rollback can occur. The challenge we have found within many organization is that there is not always sufficient traceability to reconstruct the same environmental state for effective rollback. Last year three European financial institutes experienced highly public failures during their application updates that later transpired to be down to insufficient traceability. The second two attributes: Speed Control and Workflow Orchestration are concerned with controlling the speed of through put. It is why Agile organization, automation support, tools, application and service knowledge, integration and interoperability support feature strongly here because they are focused on improving and unifying the flow and through put of delivery. In short, the attributes for supporting faster and more frequent releases centre on strong process quality and automation support and control. Process foundations and process governance together indicate the strength of Process Quality i.e. how organizations validate, approve, apply and regulate their processes but also the completeness of traceability of actions, tasks and events. The flip side to the attributes supporting accelerated delivery are the inhibitors (complexity, risk tolerance, culture, mind-set etc.) that have a negative impact on the delivery process.
Ten guiding points for further consideration
The research we conducted identified 10 guide points to establishing an environment geared for Accelerated Delivery:
- A commitment to Business Agility must be comprehensive
- Assessment, but in particular “risk” assessment must be part of the decision process
- Solid processes underpin a strategy for continuous and accelerated delivery
- Employing processes that help to bridge and improve the interactions between development and operations team (such as ITIL/ITSM) is an important starting point
- Raise the bar for change and asset management
- Get a firm handle on the complexity profile within the IT organization
- Identify any build and integration bottleneck and consider the wider implications
- Rethink the release process
- Testing needs to be comprehensive and continually updated
- Automation and governance not only matter, they are vital steps for success
The full report of our research – CIC Guide: Continuous Delivery Realization – Enterprise DevOps realities and a path towards Continuous Delivery” can be found on the CIC website at www.creativeintellectuk.com. The report deals with the question of how accelerated delivery can work in a “Change the organization stroke Run the organization” dichotomy that pervades most large institutions. For true success it needs end-to-end design and agile implementation.
Is accelerated delivery for your organization?
It would be trite to suggest that all organizations can move at the same speed when it comes to the development and deployment of applications, nor is improving the cadence of release right for all applications. A tax application that has to deal with complex tax codes may not suit high levels of automation. It may require more human intervention and staging points to ensure that the deployed application delivers the correct calculation and works in the right way. The consequences of a mistake could be financially disastrous. There may also be very good security reasons for not improving the release cycle of an application process. Ultimately the release masters that can look to truly deliver faster, more often and with great stability have invested in building an environment where risk is fully understood and is effectively balanced against the needs for accelerated delivery. The organizations of these champions stand to gain substantial benefits from greater flexibility and adaptability to meet the needs of business without risking the collapse of the IT environment and team.