How to release software frequently with quality and confidence

Continuous Delivery is a way of working for reducing cost, time and risk of releasing software. The idea is that small and frequent code changes impose less risk for bugs and disturbances. Key aspects in Continuous Delivery is to always have your source code in a releasable state and that your software delivery process is fully automated. These automated processes are typically called delivery pipelines.

In many companies, releasing software is a painful process. A process that is not done on a frequent basis. Many companies are not even able to release software once a month during a given year. In order to make something less painful you have to practice it. If you’re about to run a marathon for the first time, it might seem painful. But you won’t get better at running if you don’t do it frequent enough. It will still hurt.

As humans, we tend to be bad at repetitive work. It is therefore both time consuming and error prone to involve manual steps in the process of deploying software. That is reason enough to automate the whole process. Automation ensures that the process is fast, repeatable and provides traceability.

Never let a human do a scripts job.

With automation in place you can start building confidence in your release process and start practicing it more frequently. Releasing software should be practiced as often as possible so that you don’t even think about it happening.

Releasing new code changes should be so natural that you don’t need to think about it. It should be like breathing. Not something painful as giving birth.

A prerequisite for successfully practicing Continuous Delivery is test automation. Without test automation in place, testing becomes the bottleneck in your delivery process. It is therefore crucial that quality is built into the software. Writing automated tests, both unit, integration and acceptance tests should be a natural part of the development process. You cannot ship a piece of code that has no proper test coverage. If you are not testing the code you’re developing, you cannot be certain that it work as intended. If there is a need for regression tests, automate them and make them cheap to run so that they can be run repeatedly for every code change.

With Continuous Delivery it becomes evident that a release and a deployment are not the same things. A deployment is an exercise that happens all the time, for each new code change. A release is however a business or marketing decision on when to launch a new feature to your end users.

Tommy Tynjä
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