Dev teams should take time to tune up agile processes and continue advancing their shift toward DevOps
Release cycles are accelerating, but not as fast as development teams want. Customers’ desired release rates are moving at an unimpressive pace; those looking to push out new updates on a weekly basis often find it looks more like a monthly basis—and that just isn’t going to cut it.
As the frequency of execution increases, dev teams find themselves between a rock and a hard place. While the growing demand for faster turnarounds isn’t poised to slow down anytime soon, teams struggle to integrate a set of tools into an efficient pipeline to get the job done within the time allotted. With demand on the rise, how can teams work together to fast-track their release cycles?
It’s time for dev teams to apply a little more elbow grease.
With spring cleaning season upon us, dev teams across industries should take time this season to tune up agile processes and continue the work of advancing their shift toward DevOps.
Dust Off Roles and Responsibilities
A once very siloed practice, software development has since taken on a much more agile approach across teams as the need for faster release cycles rapidly grows. According to a recent VersionOne report, nearly 75 percent of respondents attribute the need to accelerate software delivery to their adoption of agile practices. While DevOps is meant to help dev teams deliver applications at a high velocity, managers encouraging the implementation of these processes often overlook the true meaning of DevOps and the effects these transformations will have on its current employees and their roles.
At its very core, DevOps is the combination of development and operations, which covers a wide range of tasks once performed by developers, testers and operations at different stages throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC). However, a more agile approach means these different processes (building, testing, etc.) are in a more tightly coordinated execution, requiring each of the different silos to have a better understanding—and knowledge—of each process.
Before jumping in to update any processes or technologies, it’s important to ensure all teams are aligned on their evolving roles and responsibilities. Sit down with individuals, teams and their managers to get everyone on the same page and provide guidance on best steps for moving forward this year.
Shrink the Skills Gap
Despite developers’ growing list of responsibilities, a 2018 report from LinkedIn found that there is a significant skills shortage when it comes to software engineers and other similar career trajectories. That gap shrinks even further when you consider the different roles within software engineering itself. For example, developers have recently taken on more responsibility as “full stack developers,” assuring high-quality outputs and confirming there are no bugs in their code, yet have very little knowledge of how to implement continuous testing.
This spring, spend time with employees to brush up on their skills, refine their job responsibilities and uplevel their expertise. While this isn’t a task that can be performed and executed on overnight, some recommendations to kick start the process include:
- Get leadership on board: To fund any of this, teams will need leadership buy-in. Be sure to sit down with those in senior positions to explain the benefits to teamwide training from both an organizational and economic perspective.
- Try the buddy system: Pair up programmers of different skills and levels to mentor one another. Consider it as a coaching system in which team members can provide feedback and training in real time with real-world projects.
- Consider augmenting software delivery practices to improve quality: acceptance test driven development (ATDD) is a proven accelerator and behavior-driven development (BDD) helps bridge varying skills and blind spots between the different personas across the SDLC.
Pick up New and Improved Processes for Increased Productivity
As release cycles accelerate, team leads need to take a close look at each of the stages throughout the SDLC to determine where the roadblocks occur and what exactly is holding employees back. Analyzing not only the quality of outputs, but also how quality assurance is embedded throughout continuous integration (CI) process is a good start.
Throughout the DevOps journey, there are a number of developers across different feature teams adding to, editing, updating and continuously testing code at any given time. Establishing best practices and some basic ground rules can be a simple way to ensure visibility into each of the teams’ productivity. Everyone must constantly be aware of which teams are moving along and which are struggling a bit to make sure code is well-maintained (e.g. determining if your testing code blocking your CI integration) and that there are no memory leaks or poor code development practices throwing the process off. Continuous testing across different feature teams will also assure that every code component for different functionalities is working once they all finally merge.
Getting everyone on the same page will also make it easier to simplify real-time decision making. Be sure to work with teams to define their dashboards, ensuring everyone is seeing the same actionable results at any given time.
Revamp Your Tech
While people and processes should be a main focus for spring cleaning, don’t forget about the tech. The different types of technologies utilized throughout the DevOps pipeline must integrate seamlessly with everything mentioned above.
First, consider your lab environments. The lab is the glue that keeps the entire CI process together, supporting all platforms (whether mobile, desktop, web, etc.). If unstable or unavailable at any given moment, the entire process breaks.
As more organizations begin to adopt these agile approaches to software development, it’s also important to remember that it’s nearly impossible to build a “one-size-fits-all” solution; every new process, tool or technology should integrate well within the existing toolchain, which will vary from business to business. For the most success, don’t jump to conclusions and totally overhaul your current stack. Today, there are very few vendors that offer solutions that address every step throughout the development process. Instead, develop new APIs or integration points that make it easier to diversify the set of tools you already have.
Finally, consider your frameworks. When it comes down to it, there are material differences between the developer’s objectives around tests and the test engineers. Make sure the entire team has tools and access to different frameworks based on their needs. A developer, for example, would use a tool such as Espresso or XCUItest to run a small number of unit tests, whereas test engineers require end-to-end functional test frameworks, such as Appium or Selenium.
While it won’t always be easy, it’s important to take some time this spring to get your DevOps teams looking squeaky clean. Don’t forget to focus on polishing up your processes, training team members and sprucing up your stack to ensure release cycles are on time—and spotless—by the time the summer rolls around.