As organizations embrace the age of Agile and digital transformation strategies, every brand is looking for a competitive advantage. To succeed, organizations need to focus on the user, offering services to users on their terms, on their devices and at their convenience. Even more, users expect these offerings to be visually appealing and fast. That’s a lot to keep track of!
When selecting a digital transformation strategy, there are two key trade-offs organizations need to understand. First, getting features to market faster and increasing presence on users’ devices, and second, maintaining high application quality. Acceleration can come in the form of adopting an agile process, i.e. highly independent dev teams who are responsible for one feature in the code, delivering incremental functionality from design to production. A proper quality methodology is as equally effective, ensuring a high-quality application at the end of each sprint. This can actually help the team accelerate.
Continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD) and continuous testing (CT) are the top three methods by which many development teams adopt an agile strategy. While each serves a slightly different objective, when combined, they can significantly help the team achieve velocity and quality, two of the most important goals of any development team. Let’s dive deeper into these three different components to understand the critical role they each play.
Method 1: Continuous Integration
CI is the most critical component to making an effectively agile development team. To help understand the important role CI plays, the image below depicts a team that has not installed a CI process. As you’ll notice, this team does not share their code with the rest of the development team until after the 60-day development period is over. As a result, by waiting to share key performance components, such as code, this team has unnecessarily extended the post-sprint stabilization phase, where developers test and redo integration points. With speed being such a sensitive KPI in situations such as app development, prolonging this phase can make a significant difference in the success of a project. What’s more, it can cause frustration among developers and testers across the software development life cycle (SDLC).
For comparison, the image below depicts a team that has implemented a CI process. Using CI, the team integrated increments from the main tree continuously. In addition, by using test automation, they are able to ensure the integration actually works. By implementing a CI approach, the conclusion of each sprint is on time and within the defined quality expectation, resulting in a reduced stabilization phase. In some situations, it might be possible to get rid of this phase altogether. The ideal CI process yields a working product at the end of each sprint and each day.
Method 2: Continuous Delivery
CD is the practice is the practice of streamlining and automating all the processes leading up to deployment. There are a number of steps in CD, such as validating the quality of the build in the previous environment. When done manually, these steps can take significant effort and time; however, they can be automated using cloud technologies and proper orchestration.
Teams should ensure they have a monitoring dashboard for their production environment in place to eliminate performance bottlenecks and respond fast to issues. This will complete an efficient CD process.
Method 3: Continuous Testing
CT, which can also be referred to as continuous quality, is the practice of embedding and automating test activities into every “commit.” CT helps developers use their time more efficiently when trying to fix a bug for code that was written years ago. To fix the bug, developers should first remind themselves of which code it was, undo any code that was written on top of the original code, and then retest the new code—not a short process. Testing that takes place every commit, every few hours, nightly and weekly not only increases confidence in the application quality, but it also drives team efficiency.
Outlined below are various steps teams should take to achieve CT:
- Confirm a stable test lab 24×7.
- Arm the testing team with a suite of test and development tools that enable high productivity.
- Leverage automation for only the high value and stable tests.
- Properly size the platform and test coverage for all projects.
- Enable fast feedback via frequent reporting and analytics.
One of the most popular misconceptions about adapting to today’s digital transformation and implementing an agile development process is that it hinders speed and quality. Incorporating the CI/CD/CT trifecta, in addition to an agile development methodology enables the velocity and quality needed for success in today’s rapidly transforming industry.