3 DevOps Best Practices for Accelerating Software Development

Ashutosh Kumar

January 8, 2021

3 DevOps Best Practices for Accelerating Software Development

The DevOps movement is already over one decade old, with foundations in hundreds of leading companies. But even at those companies, the early stages of software development can be overwhelming. The complexity of modern software projects makes delivering quality results more difficult.

This is due in part to shifting priorities. Software development has evolved to focus more on providing business value, and value for customers. This means boosting collaboration across teams during development; but also, limiting inefficiencies like excessive WIP and unnecessary feature development.

As software requirements grow, inadequate practices can delay or even hurt business and customer value. Fortunately, new strategies are emerging that prioritize, simplify, and accelerate the delivery of value to customers. The following guide highlights three best practices for realizing this goal in a timely and effective way. They include:

  • Prioritizing value by developing only features customers want
  • Implementing organizational techniques that align resource with core DevOps goals
  • Leveraging automation to improve testing processes and outcomes

With these three best practices in place, teams can build more connected environments that deliver lasting, positive changes to software development processes. When teams continuously provide value in these ways, they consistently deliver value for customers and the bottom line as well.

I. Align DevOps with Customer and Business Value

Although DevOps is a “given” at many organizations, it has only gradually begun to align directly with business value. The result is a greater emphasis on features that work to add value for customers over features that might be of interest but ultimately unnecessary. DevOps teams therefore must prioritize business ROI. They must always factor those goals into individual project initiatives.

The YAGNI (“You Ain’t Gonna Need It”) principle in software development is central to this approach. It’s a simple concept—prioritize features you’re going to need and bypass those you won’t. In practice, that means prioritizing only tasks that are part of the “value stream” that leads directly to customers. The result is a greater frequency of releases and a shorter overall timeline for realizing business results.

Starting with YAGNI means first applying new KPIs to development teams. Those KPIs should align with customer value and faster time-to-delivery of critical end-user features. When the DevOps team focuses on what’s important to customers—and collaborate with key departments with those priorities in mind—they ensure they are aligned with the rest of the organization.

II. Adopt Techniques That Put These Goals into Practice

DevOps leaders must design and plan ahead of development to achieve these goals as well. That means revisiting their core techniques and adapting them for individual projects to ensure the right results.

They must make appropriate estimates in terms of costs and resources for individual projects. They must also determine new projects’ feasibility. This way, they avoid wasting those resources on high-risk projects that don’t align with quality results.

Once they identify the right projects, they can begin by aligning resources for individual tasks. Using user story maps and Kanban boards, teams can reduce risk and eliminate extraneous features and tasks that lead to “dead ends” in terms of value. (Team leaders, let alone business leaders, will regret paying for projects that ultimately cannot deliver meaningful end results.)

Here is a closer look at three opportunities for improving DevOps techniques with these goals in mind.

A. Develop Cross-Functional Teams

DevOps leaders can involve the appropriate, customer-oriented employees from other departments with teams developing features that will impact them. This way, they draw on organizational expertise as they enhance essential features or tasks and eliminate unnecessary ones.

Remember, even features that are desirable might ultimately be unnecessary. Interdisciplinary support can help identify these unnecessary features. Aligning teams in this way helps build long-term collaborative capacities for future software development as well.

B. Eliminate Dependencies and Other Unwanted Complexities

Creating unwanted dependencies between features is a classic error in software development. Avoiding these dependencies has grown more important as teams look to eliminate unnecessary features and deliver customer value in more streamlined ways.

Dependencies quickly create development “deadlocks” when the completion of one feature is dependent on another. These can create delays when a supporting feature must be changed or eliminated as well. These dependencies, therefore, reduce organizational as well as DevOps agility.

DevOps leaders can solve these dependency problems and other issues in two ways, each with its own advantages and drawbacks:

  • Using “quick fixes” that create additional technical debt
  • Developing long-term solutions that add to WIP (“works in progress”)

Generally, teams should try to limit WIP as much as possible. Establishing WIP limits reduces the number of projects on which teams must work at any given time, allowing for speedier time-to-value for each individual project. Without WIP limits, teams have fewer opportunities to focus on the overarching goals of projects, to reduce operational inefficiencies, and to commit to other organizational priorities not associated with each individual project.

Unfortunately, limiting WIP often requires the use of “quick fixes.” These are codes that work perfectly well for what they’re meant to address but which sets up roadblocks for future progress (i.e., create technical debt).

C. Take Responsibility for and “Pay Off” Technical Debt

Technical debt is undesirable; however, technical debt can be individually prioritized and incorporated into the normal flow of work. As we stated previously:

“Just as there are times it makes sense to go and take out a bank loan—to buy a house, maybe, or to tide yourself through a lean time— there are times that you may do well to take out technical debt. When you’ve got a looming release date, for instance, and some super quick coding is the only way you’re going to meet it.”

Technical debt is an unavoidable reality, after all. Teams must simply keep track of their technical debt and prioritize “paying it off” as part of normal development.

As DevOps best practices, these three techniques reduce unnecessary work while speeding up time to true business value. As we will find, automating key processes throughout the software development and testing can accelerate these benefits as well.

III. Leverage Automation for Analysis and Testing

Automation reduces the need for human-driven manual processes. Although automation is not new, it has become especially powerful when applied to repetitive and iterative DevOps processes. These include catching bugs, testing code, and providing quality assurance.

Most modern software development processes now include automated testing. It is especially useful as teams look to increase the variety of testing phases before implementation. Automation can also be used to analyze source code and other data about software development. These include records of project schedules and delays, as well as application defects and their fixes.

Automation contributes to faster delivery of value to customers as well. Specifically, it contributes to continuous delivery (CD), or the widely adopted best practice of delivering new code releases to customers as quickly as possible. Here is a closer look at several testing functions to which automation can contribute.

Unit testing automation

Unit testing consists of functional testing of individual components or modules within the new software. These processes are often simple, but there are typically a lot of them. Manual unit testing is therefore especially tedious, making it a great candidate for automation. Automating unit testing is not only affordable, but it can also be executed rapidly and at scale.

Functional testing automation

DevOps teams use functional testing to measure the efficacy of software from a business perspective. Rather than look at individual processes, function testing involves measuring the business value of those processes’ results.

DevOps teams can automate functional testing by defining the parameters for the success of the function based on the companies desired business results. They then need only apply those standards to the machine learning tools driving those testing functions.

User experience testing automation

There is no automated replacement for thorough alpha and beta testing. But automating key aspects of the user experience testing can provide human testers with a better experience during those phases. With fewer glaring problems, testers and developers can refine more nuanced aspects of user experience to make it truly exceptional.

Automating user experience testing might include imitating user typos, providing bad data “by mistake,” or making incorrect commands to see if those errors break the software. In these ways, automated tools attempt to “break” the software so that users cannot.

Automating key aspects of testing also helps to ensure an effective developer experience as well. The less time developers must spend encumbered by rudimentary problems, the more time they can spend on adding value and driving business results.

The Future of Successful DevOps is Defining and Aligning with Customer Value

As Forbes describes, “A company cannot become customer-centric if different parts of the organization operate separately from one another.” Considerations for the customer experience must therefore begin at the project planning stages, and extend throughout the lifetime of each project, even after delivery.

Therefore, “customer value” can and must be defined, measured, and translated into iterative processes as part of software development. This is perhaps the most important lesson of modern DevOps. And as customer value becomes more complex, the impetus for eliminating inefficiencies, building cross-departmental collaboration, and automating key processes only becomes stronger.

Fortunately, a new generation of AI-powered tools is enabling software professionals to deliver exceptional end results, even under the most stringent business requirements. Taazaa provides fresh, innovative software solutions of this kind the deliver on evolving digital health, logistics, and IoT-related customer objectives. Contact us today and speak with one of our software engineering experts to learn more.