Before Continuous Delivery you need an investigation

Investigate before you begin Continuous Delivery

It was the PIPELINE conference last week and, as usual, it was a great day! I highly recommend this for anyone interested in Continuous Delivery (CD), there is value to get out of all the sessions. This year Dan North kicked it off with a entertaining and challenging keynote on Ops and Operability, but it was the last talk of the day by Rachel Laycock that I really enjoyed. She spoke on “Continuous Delivery At Scale”, although I think many of the points covered can apply to any size of organization. During her talk she mentioned that Continuous Delivery needs to be investigated in an organisation first, I think this is a crucial point and must be taken seriously!

During Steve Smith’s talk, he said “Continuous Delivery is hard”. This could be considered an understatement! One thing you cannot do is drive straight into microservices and think you’re done once they are on a pipeline. Unfortunately, CD is looked at in this way too often and will increase the risk of failure. It’s not solely about tools or processes, there are many other challenges to overcome first. Carrying out an investigation will help direct the journey to where the major challenges are in an organization so they can be understood and discussed.

Continuous Delivery is difficult to get right because of the many obstacles (or landmines as Rachel calls them) in the way:

I’m sure you can relate to a few points on the list! An investigation would search for land mines and the potential impact an explosion could have! CD affects every single person across the complete application lifecycle. From ideation to deployments, it impacts mores areas than people expect and each one should be investigated for land mines. If people are against changes for CD then a solution needs to be found. Land mines cannot be ignored, any friction will only cause problems somewhere in the process. The last thing anyone wants is to call the bomb disposal unit!

You don’t know what you will discover until you start looking! It makes any investigation kind of exciting, but whatever does come out the following need careful consideration. I believe these all need to be in place to successfully achieve Continuous Delivery:

  • Buy-in from upper management – without this it will be a struggle, if not impossible. In order to get buy-in we need to show why CD makes such a difference, perhaps having a team demo a pipeline and maybe small process changes can showcase the possibilities.
  • A plan with small steps – it’s important to know where you’re heading and the timescales, CD doesn’t happen overnight. A vision can help discover potential land mines and also give others confidence that this is being taken seriously. Small steps help trail new changes and minimize the chaos during a bigger role out. Having a single team experiment with tools and processes first helps overcome most basic issues.
  • The right mindset – you can tell a lot from people’s attitude, it’s so easy to fall back into a previous way of doing things if we’re not careful. Adopting CD needs a mindset that is focused on the principles and making improvements to reach the goals. Having a good understanding of CD is crucial, unfortunately, I’ve seen many teams say they are doing CD when in fact their not – this is dangerous! Promoting the right mindset is key to this understand and continual improvements.
  • Evangelists – even after a rollout of CD not everyone will get it. Having people throughout the teams who are passionate about CD and help promote the principles is essential. When implementing the plan the evangelists ensure we’re heading in the right direction and are there as mentors. Obviously, this depends on the number of teams you have, but this is critical for remote locations. We want people to be excited about CD and speaking to people outside of their teams, evangelists play a key role in keeping up momentum.
  • With any changes, they need to be thought through! CD is a big change, not just to tools and processes, but to the culture. An investigation should give an insight into how smooth that path will be and an opportunity to dispose of any land mines found! But remember, the work doesn’t end once CD is rolled out, the CD mindset needs to be maintained – watch out for more land mines!





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