The 5 Longest Lead Times in Software Delivery

The Pressure to Go Fast

Rapid business change, fueled by software innovation is transforming how software delivery organizations define, develop, test, and release business applications. For these software organizations to keep their competitive advantage in today’s complex and volatile digital marketplace, they must become more agile, adaptive, and integrated into the business and embrace digital transformation business practices. Unfortunately, most current software delivery practices can’t keep pace with the demands of the business.

Long software delivery cycles are a significant impediment to business technology innovation. Agile development teams have shortened development cycles, but Agile by itself is insufficient as it does not remove the cultural and technical barriers between development and operations.  DevOps principles and practices developed in response to this problem, facilitates cooperation and coordination among teams to deliver software faster and with better quality.

The goal of scaling “DevOps” for the enterprise is to prioritize and optimize deployment pipelines and reduce lead times to deliver better business outcomes. Creating new and optimizing existing deployment pipelines in large IT organizations is key to improving their efficiency and effectiveness in delivering software at the speed that the business requires.

Long Lead Times

Every enterprise IT organization is unique in that it will have different bottlenecks and constraints in its deployment pipelines.  I recommend conducting a value stream mapping exercise to identify specific problem areas.  “Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise” , by Gary Gruver is a great book and provides a good framework for getting started. The following are the some of the most common areas found that generate the longest lead times:

Handoffs

DevOps culture strives to break down the organizational silos and transition more to product teams.  This is because the current silo’d organizational structure provides headwinds to the objective of short lead times and continuous flow.  Organizational silos are artifacts of the industrial era designed specifically for “Batch and Queue” processing which drives up lead times with handoffs from one team or organization to another. Each handoff is potentially a queue in itself.  Resolving ambiguities require additional communication between teams and can result in significant delays, high costs, and failed releases.

You need to strive to reduce the number of handoffs by automating a significant portion of the work and enabling the teams to continuously work on creating customer value – the faster the flow, the better the quality, resulting in lower lead times.

Approval Processes

Approval processes were originally developed to mitigate risk and provide oversight to ensure adherence to auditable standards for moving changes into production, however, the approval process within most large enterprises is slow and complex and is often comprised of a set of manual stovepipe processes that use email and Microsoft office tools to track, manage, and, more often than not, wait on people for approval of a software change. Lack of proper data or insufficient data leads to hasty or faulty approvals or bounce backs further frustrating software delivery teams, reducing quality, and impeding deployments.

Continuous delivery practices and deployment pipeline automation enables a more rigorous approval process, and a dramatic improvement in speed. Releasing into production might need approval from the business, but everything up to that point could be automated dramatically reducing lead times.

Environment Management and Provisioning

There is nothing more demoralizing to a dev team than having to wait to get an environment to test a new feature. Lack of environment availability and/or environment contention due to manual processes and poor scheduling can create extremely long lead times, delay releases, and increase the cost of release deployments.

Creating environments is a very repetitive task that should be documented, automated, and put under version control. An automated and self-service process to schedule, manage, track, and provision all the environments in the deployment pipeline will greatly reduce lead times, drive down costs, while increasing the productivity of your Dev and QA teams.

Manual Software Deployments

Machines are far better and much more consistent at deploying applications than humans. Yet there still are a significant number of organizations that still manually deploy their code.  Automating manual deployment can be a quick win for these organizations. This approach can be delivered rapidly without major organizational changes. It is not uncommon for organizations to see deployment lead times reduced by over 90%.

The more automated this process is, the more repeatable and reliable it will be. When it’s time to deploy to production, it will be a non-event. This translates into dramatically lower lead times, less downtime and keeps the business open so that it can make more money.

Manual Software Testing

Once the environment is ready and the code is deployed, it’s time to test to ensure the code is working as expected and that it does not break anything else. The problem is that most organizations today manually test their code base. Manual software testing drives lead times up because the process is very slow, error prone and expensive to scale out across large organizations.

Automated testing is a prime area to focus on to reduce lead times. Automated testing is less expensive, more reliable and repeatable, can provide broader coverage, and is a lot faster.  There will be an initial cost of developing the automated test scripts, but a lot of that can be absorbed by shifting manual tester resources to “Test Development Engineers” to focus on automated API-based testing. Over time manual testing costs and lead times will go down as quality goes up.

 The velocity and complexity of software delivery continues to increase as businesses adapt to new economic conditions. Optimizing and automating deployment pipelines using DevOps practices will dramatically reduce lead times and enable the delivery of software faster and with better quality.

To learn more about how to optimize your deployment pipelines, listen to our popular on-demand webcast with Gary Gruver, where he talks about how to start your DevOps journey and how to scale it in large enterprises where change is usually difficult. He shares his recommendations from his new book on scaling DevOps and answers audience questions on how to adopt those best practices in their organizations.

Fill the form to listen to the recording and get your free copy of Gary’s new book Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise

DevOps: Where to Start and How to Scale?

Over the past several years, a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift has occurred in the marketplace creating a digital economy where businesses must leverage software to create innovation or face a major risk of becoming obsolete.  This shift has transferred the innovation focus to software. Software success is increasingly indistinguishable from business success and all business innovation requires new software, changes to software, or both.

With this shift to software as a driver for business innovation, large traditional organizations are finding that their current approaches to managing and delivering software is limiting their ability to respond to the business as quickly as the business requires.  The current state of software delivery is characterized by:

  • Heavyweight, linear-sequential development and delivery software practices.
  • Large, infrequent software releases supported by complex and manual processes for testing and deploying software.
  • Overly complex and tightly-coupled application infrastructures.
  • The perception of security, compliance, and performance as an after-thought and a barrier to business activity and innovation

These approaches can no longer scale to meet the requirements of the business. Many existing software practices tend to create large amounts of technical debt and rework while inhibiting adoption of new technologies.  A lack of skilled development, testing, and delivery personnel means that manual efforts cannot scale, and many organizations struggle to release software in a repeatable and reliable manner.  This current state has given rise to the “DevOps” movement, which seeks to deliver better business outcomes by implementing a set of cultural norms and technical practices that enables IT organizations to innovate faster with less risk.

I’ve talked to a lot of different companies and a lot of people are struggling trying to get everyone in their organization to agree on what is “DevOps, where to start, and how to drive improvements over time.  With that in mind, I have asked Gary Gruver, author of “Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise” to join me on the Micro Focus DevOps Drive-in on Thursday, January 26th at 9 am PT.  Gary will discuss where to start your DevOps journey and present his latest recommendations from his new book.  Don’t miss this opportunity to ask Gary your questions about how to implement DevOps in your enterprise IT organization. When you register, you’ll get the first 3 chapters of his book. If you read the first 3 chapters, we will send you the full version.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016: Leading Change

Mark Levy reports back from #DOES16 in San Francisco – is this is the year that DevOps crosses the chasm? What did he find out from the experts like Gene Kim? Read on to find out the answers and more in this fascinating blog….

Last week I attended the DevOps Enterprise Summit (#DOES16) in San Francisco which brought together over 1300 IT professionals to learn and discuss with their peers the practices and patterns of high performance IT for large complex environments. One of the first things I noticed was that the overall structure of the event was different from your standard IT event.  All the sessions over the three-day event followed an “Experience Report” format. Each session was only 30 minutes in length and each speaker followed the same specific pattern, which enabled current DevOps practitioners to share what they did, what happened, and what they learned. The event also had workshops leveraging the “Lean Coffee” format where participants gathered, built an agenda, and began discussing DevOps topics that were pertinent to their particular environment.  In my opinion, these session formats made the overall conference exciting and fast paced.

Enterprise DevOps Crosses the Chasm

One question remained a focus throughout the event: “Is this the year that Enterprise DevOps crosses the chasm?” #DOES16 seems to believe so. The main theme for this year’s event was “Leading Change”. Gene Kim opened the event by highlighting results of the latest DevOps survey which found IT organizations that leveraged DevOps practices were able to deliver business value faster, with better quality, more securely, and they had more fun doing it!  With over four years of survey data, we now know that these high performers are massively out performing their peers. The focus of #DOES16 was to provide a forum where current DevOps practitioners from large IT organizations were able to share their experience with others who are just starting their journey. DevOps transformation stories from large enterprise companies such as Allstate, American Airlines, Capital One, Target, Walmart, and Nationwide proved that DevOps is not just reserved for the start-ups in Silicon Valley.

DevOps3-300x123

 

There were also several new books focused on DevOps practices launched at #DOES16.  Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Dubois, and John Willis collaborated to create the “DevOps Handbook”, and renowned DevOps thought leader and author Gary Gruver released his new book “Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise”. Both books focus on how large enterprises can gain better business outcomes by implementing DevOps practices at scale and in my opinion are must reads for DevOps practitioners as well as senior management.

DevOps stickies

 

It’s a Journey from “Aha to Ka-Ching”

DevOps is not “something you do” but a state you continuously move towards by doing other things. it’s a journey of continuous improvement. During the event, several companies highlighted that it’s a journey of experimentation, accepting failure along the way, while also incrementally improving the way they build and deliver software. There were some excellent case study presentations. For example, Heather Mickman, Sr. Director of Technology Services at Target, has presented three years in a row and showed how a grassroots, bottoms up DevOps transformation at Target has enabled the company to enlist the support of executive management. Target was able to scale software deployments from 2-3 per day in 2015 to 90 per day twelve months later.  The Target team achieved this by aligning product teams with business capabilities, removing friction points, and making everything self-service. What’s next for Target?  Take everything to the cloud.  The journey continues.

If you want to go far, go together

Leading change was the main theme of the event and was highlighted in many different ways. For example, Microsoft discussed their new vision of enabling any engineer to contribute to any product or service at Microsoft, thus leading the change to a single engineering system. Engineers follow an “engineering north star” with the objective that dev can move to another team and already know how to work. Leading change does not just focus on new innovation. DevOps is also about innovating with your “Core”.  Walmart’s mainframe team took the lead and created a Web caching service at scale that distributed teams could leverage. While both examples show how technology is being used to move forward together, there has to be a culture that supports this type of high performance. Many sessions focused on how to build a generative culture and the leadership that is required to change people and processes.

DevOpsDriveIn

Creating a culture that supports a successful DevOps transformation is such an important topic, that I have invited Gene Kim to come on our next Micro Focus DevOps Drive-in, December 1, 2016 at  9am PST to discuss the research he conducted while developing his latest book, “The DevOps Handbook”, and techniques to build a culture of continuous experimentation and learning. Hope to see you there!

Innovate Faster with Lower Risk at Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

Mark Levy blogs about the upcoming Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016 with over 60 technical sessions focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way. DevOps Interchange will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.

Marketing and Innovation

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Marketing is required to understand the needs of the customer and innovation is required to build the product or services that fit those customer needs.

Innovation provides competitive differentiation in the markets where you have to be consistently better and smarter at creating customers than your competitors.  Businesses have been using innovation as a competitive weapon for centuries to create value and differentiation, but only recently have businesses been using software to enable and accelerate business innovation.

Building and delivering software has always been a difficult race against time. I was a software developer for well over 10 years and I was always racing to a date. But over the last several years, that race has entered an even more challenging phase. Several market forces are at work, putting the pressure on the business to deliver business value faster, with better quality, and at a lower cost to the customer.

With the explosion of mobile, there is a newly empowered customer who is forcing the business to deliver quickly to prove out business ideas and innovations. If the business is not responsive enough, low switching costs enables the customer to easily migrate to another competitor.  Additionally, digital competition is everywhere. Firms that use software and the cloud to disrupt established markets can move faster than more traditional businesses because software-based services can evolve faster and offer the opportunity to out-innovate market incumbents.  Epic battles are already being waged across many industries between incumbents and software powered companies.

Finally, the impact of software has dramatically increased across all kinds of business. Today, business innovation is often driven by information technology, which itself demands changes to software.  Software development and delivery has to change or the business will be at risk.

business-operations

Innovate Faster with Lower Risk

Today, every enterprise IT organization is under pressure to simultaneously respond more quickly to enable business innovation, and at the same time provide a stable, secure, compliant and predictable IT environment.  IT must maintain and update the “Enterprise Software Engine” that is running the enterprise, i.e., keeping the lights on, while also providing capacity to support business innovation.  These are not mutually exclusive but actually form an integrated value chain that leverages the traditional systems of record with the customer facing systems of innovation.  These pressures have given rise to Enterprise DevOps as all enterprises must enable the business to innovate faster with lower risk.

Enterprise DevOps is all about building and delivering better quality software, faster and more reliably. IT organizations that implement Enterprise DevOps practices achieve higher IT and organizational performance, spanning both development and operations.  Technical practices such as Continuous Delivery lead to lower levels of deployment pain while speeding up application delivery and improving quality, security, and business outcomes.  The DevOps culture promotes a generative, high trust, performance-oriented culture which enables good information flow, cross-functional collaboration and job satisfaction.  This all leads to higher levels of productivity enabling business innovation with lower risk.

ichange

Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

This very important topic will be the main focus of Micro Focus’s first annual global user conference, DevOps Interchange 2016 , September 18-21, 2016 in Chicago, Ill.  Micro Focus’s own John Delk,  Product Group GM at Micro Focus, will kick off the conference with his “Vision 2020” look at how software development and delivery technology will change and how we must adapt and embrace it. We have also invited Gary Gruver, author of “Leading the transformation – Applying DevOps and Agile principles at scale”, to give a keynote talk about DevOps, where to begin, and how to scale DevOps practices over time in large enterprises.  With over 60 technical sessions, focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way, this conference will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.  I hope to see you there!

DevOpsExchange