How to Implement Continuous Delivery

by Alastair Wilkes in

Continuous Delivery Checklist to Automate Your Software Delivery Lifecycle 

You’re ready to improve your software development lifecycle but don’t know where to begin with ramping up your Continuous Delivery practice? We got you! This article will be your guide on how to implement Continuous Delivery.

Launchable’s guide on how to implement Continuous Delivery will cover:

  • What is Continuous Delivery?
  • How to Implement Continuous Delivery
  • Continuous Delivery Benefits: Risk Reduction, Developer Productivity, and Customer Communication
  • Continuous Delivery Challenges: What to Avoid When Implementing CD

What is Continuous Delivery?

Continuous Delivery is the process through which development changes to software are automatically prepared for a release to production. Continuous Delivery streamlines deployment to environments for automated testing. Every code revision that’s committed sets off an automated flow of building, testing, and ultimately staging the newest release.

The goal of the implementation of Continuous Delivery is to ensure developers always have a deployment-ready build artifact that’s passed a standardized test process. Plus, Continuous Delivery also creates better feedback loops, so software quality can be consistently improved or updated.

Continuous Delivery, or CD, is also part of the CI/CD pipeline. The other part of the CI/CD pipeline is Continuous Integration. This phase of the pipeline refers to automating software code changes by regularly building, testing, and merging branches into a shared repository. 

Together, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery improve developer productivity and support customer satisfaction by speeding up release times.

Related Article: The Complete Expert Guide to Continuous Integration

How to Implement Continuous Delivery

Many DevOps teams feel overwhelmed at how to implement Continuous Delivery into a business’s software development lifecycle. However, it’s important to remember that the implementation of efficacious Continuous Delivery is a process, not a finger snap or quick fix. 

There are several critical steps to successfully implement Continuous Delivery at your workplace.

Five Steps to Implementing Continuous Delivery

# 1 Start with a culture of Continuous Integration. 

The key to the successful implementation of Continuous Delivery begins with an ingrained culture of Continuous Integration and the quality of your test suite. This can be achieved through automated testing for every new feature, and for any flaws, defects, or regressions unearthed post-release.

# 2 Optimize testing. 

Continuous Delivery relies on your applications being automatically and properly tested, consistently. However, testing cycles can create bottlenecks within workflows, especially during integration testing or end-to-end testing. But, with machine learning, DevOps teams can identify the most critical tests to run, shrink the size of test suites without risking the quality of code, and improve release times. Remember: the test suite is the highway to production, so it must be as efficient as possible. 

# 3 Adopt an effective alert and monitoring system. 

To automate the deployment of every code change to the testing environment, ensure there are alerts in place for the inevitable mistakes or issues that arise. This kind of performance monitoring works to provide real-time feedback on the latest release and supports changes during rapid-fire production updates.

# 4 Focus on transparency and clear communication with the client. 

With the automatic deployment of commits, the usual hours to review, discuss, and approve changes are no longer needed. Instead, it’s all automatic - and that’s a good thing! However, the efficiency of Continuous Deployment may mean multiple deployments per day. 

Rather than wasting time informing customers of every single change, DevOps teams can instead focus on delivering high-quality communication to the customer. Again, quality over quantity is the new goal here. Moving forward, DevOps teams can focus on sharing new features to customers, highlighting more efficient workflows, and responding rapidly to feedback, every single time.

# 5 Manage your mindset. 

Successful implementation of Continuous Delivery is all about managing the mindset and culture of your software development workplace. An effective Continuous Delivery framework requires multiple teams to work together towards efficacy, to establish automated tests for builds, to calibrate on using the same build throughout the whole pipeline, and to fix problems in code. This is a process that takes time and takes teamwork. But, the benefits of CD truly outweigh the initial footwork of implementation.

Continuous Delivery Benefits: Risk Reduction, Developer Productivity, and Customer Communication

Some teams might see implementing Continuous Delivery as a larger task they aren’t sure will pay off for them. Implementing Continuous Delivery offers three major benefits to DevOps teams.  

Continuous Delivery reduces inefficiencies and troubleshooting. 

With a consistent, automated code deployment during development and staging, DevOps teams don’t have to spend so many hours controlling every single release. Instead, code changes are made much more quickly and efficiently. 

Developer productivity improves with Continuous Delivery. 

Continuous Delivery automates the steps for deploying a build for safer releases, and also speeds the release cycle, thanks to automated testing based on data. With this automation of the code delivery process, developers can release more rapidly and are able to focus on what they do best, development. In that way, Continuous Delivery is key for reducing friction during the release process.

Continuous Delivery bolsters communication with the customer during the software development process. 

Thanks to a speedier delivery process via the automation of committing source code to repositories after the build stage, new features or updates can swiftly move into production or a testing environment. This increase in velocity makes for happier customers - and happier developers.

The bottom line? Continuous Delivery increases productivity, improves developer and client happiness, and enables speedier, higher quality software releases

Most Common Continuous Delivery Challenges

The benefits of an effective CI/CD pipeline are clear, as is the efficiency and speed Continuous Delivery offers. But, there are challenges to the implementation of Continuous Delivery. And most of those challenges revolve around testing.

Testing Reliability

Flaky tests are a common issue and result of poorly written tests, memory failures, infrastructure issues, and other human-made errors. Flaky tests suck up developer brainpower, as every test failure requires both time and energy to identify the actual cause and then fix it. 

With a solution like Launchable’s Flaky Test Insights, developers can efficiently identify and eliminate flakes. Flaky Test Insights flags if a test failed due to being flaky, ranks every test on probable flakiness, and identifies the top flaky tests in a test suite. By erasing flaky tests, the Continuous Delivery flow can function at peak levels.

Testing Value

The goal of tests is to provide valuable feedback, no matter the complexity or simplicity of the test. Rather than running every test under the sun, development teams that want to implement Continuous Delivery should instead focus on a test strategy like the software testing pyramid. 

The software testing pyramid groups software tests into buckets of different granularity and projects an appropriate prediction of how many tests to run. To this end, quality, not quantity of tests, is the name of the game when it comes to how to implement Continuous Delivery.

Development teams should not only align their testing strategy with the software testing pyramid, but every layer of the testing pyramid should focus on running valuable software tests, from unit tests to integration tests, and every test type between and beyond. Your tests should give valuable feedback regardless of how simple or complex the test type is.

Testing Cycle Velocity

A test cycle covers the group of test cases to be executed. However, large batches of testing cycles create glacial release times. The fix? Utilizing machine learning, like Launchable’s Predictive Test Selection, to train your model to learn from code changes over time and to rank the importance of code changes when it comes to new tests. This kind of automated machine learning allows DevOps teams to dramatically cut down on the tests running in your test suite

The result? Speedier test cycle times, but confidence flaws and failures will always be found.

While the implementation of Continuous Delivery may appear daunting at the beginning of the process, there’s a multitude of attitude shifts, culture changes, and modern automation tools and machine learning platforms that can make the shift easier. 

When Continuous Delivery practices leverage the best testing strategies, the CI/CD pipeline operates at maximum efficiency. And that’s good news for DevOps teams, leadership, and clients alike.

Ready to Implement Continuous Delivery? 

If you’re ready to help your team create better feedback loops for faster, higher-quality software delivery, contact Launchable today!

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