Continuous Delivery And Its Advantages

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I could use some help. I’m a college junior struggling with one of my last assignments. The final project is supposed to be a mock proposal for a fledgling startup. Everyone is supposed to identify and pitch a relevant best practice to said startup.

The project is more than a deliverable, too. Our professor also expects us to present polished pitches during the very last week. That means I’ll have to have everything else prepared at least a few days ahead of time; otherwise, I won’t have enough time to practice.

I haven’t even been able to narrow down possible topics. The ones originally considered–like machine learning and artificial intelligence–were too complicated for me. Any insight or guidance from an industry expert would be much appreciated.

This assignment of yours sounds like a fantastic learning opportunity. Coursework focused on the intersection of business and technology has tremendous value. That’s because the role of information technology (IT) has changed dramatically since it was first introduced to business. Forbes contributor, Daniel Newman, emphasized as much almost two years ago. “IT departments are now the linchpin of organizations,” he explained. “Their influence is spreading within the organization, and CIOs must transform the workforce along with it.” Of course, adapting human behavior is almost always easier said than done.

Suffice it to say, however, that workforce and workflow modifications are absolutely necessary when it comes to exploiting business technology. Scott Kirsner at Harvard Business Review highlighted why that’s the case while describing the major barriers to innovation. Though his findings relied on data collected from larger companies, many of these findings remain salient enough to extrapolate further. The two most commonly cited obstacles (i.e., misalignment and cultural issues) were linked exclusively to human judgment rather than technical complexity. In other words, innovation was often stymied because people failed to adapt appropriately.

The good news is that there are plenty of success stories despite the trials and tribulations. TechBeacon contributor, Steve Brodie, published a fairly comprehensive history of how startups gradually evolved the agile software development process. According to him, eventually, “the notion of treating the entire software lifecycle as a single process – and one that could be automated – was embraced not only by startups but also by Fortune 1000 companies.” That’s probably one of the best examples to forge a presentation around.

Many uneducated stakeholders assume that software development through continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) invites significant risk for a given product and/or service. That isn’t necessarily always true. For instance, prudent engineers can easily mitigate excessive risk with things like feature flags, which lets them test new functionalities without harming the core codebase or end-user experience. As you can imagine, there are serious advantages for any business that can experiment swiftly to validate marketplace assumptions. There’s no better way to refine a product or service incrementally while simultaneously avoiding costly mistakes.

Building software using CI/CD is clearly no trivial undertaking, but it’s definitely worthwhile. It’s one of the countless illustrative examples that reveal how business productivity is dependent on much more than the mechanics of technology. Organizations that ignore or underestimate the human element risk serious consequences. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t trade-offs to carefully examine. Simon Horrocks at ComputerWorld did us the favor of underscoring the pros and cons associated with adopting CI/CD. He discussed everything from early-stage DevOps and creating cultural shifts to proper role-setting and the importance of tracking metrics.

At the end of the day, promoting CI/CD as a best practice is extremely reasonable. There’s no shortage of headlines devoted to the subject. More importantly, because the approach is more conceptual than anything, it’s also widely applicable, whereas other strategies can be rather limiting.

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