The Missing Link in Continuous DevOps Cycles

Delivering software quickly, reliably and safely is at the heart of technology transformation and organizational performance regardless of industry. As part of overall technology transformation, many companies are recognizing the benefits of applying DevOps methodologies to areas outside of software development, such as general product development, IT expansion and scaling and new business processes. However, some organizations—and even software development teams—may be missing a crucial step in the product development life cycle.

The Missing DevOps Link

DevOps methodologies are nothing new. In fact, part of the reason organizations are adopting DevOps practices for initiatives outside of software development is because of its tested and proven success when it comes to developing and deploying new processes and features. The exact steps involved in DevOps processes can be debated by reasonable people, but there are three generally agreed-upon factors involved: Continuous integration (CI), continuous deployment (CD) and continuous release (CR).

Continuous Integration

CI refers to a strategy of constantly updating products with new features and code on a regular basis. The cadence of the updates varies from weekly to monthly, but the strategy remains the same: detect problems early before they can snowball and impact further development down the line.

Continuous Delivery

CD is related to continuous integration but is focused on the delivery stage. CD is executed when new features and development updates are carried out to production. The most critical factor of CD is consistent management of the product’s end environment. To maintain the functionality of a product in the end-us environment, it must be regularly’t suffer and consistent to ensure performance doesn’t as a result of product updates and new features.

Continuous Release

CR is the final step before the product development life cycle starts over again. CR refers to the practice of continually releasing new product updates, features and capabilities to end users. The tricky part of CR is that you must execute CI and CD flawlessly to ensure the end user doesn’t experience any bugs or issues caused by an update.

But what’s missing? The answer lies in continuous exploration (CE).

Why CE is Critical to Product Development Success

CI, CD and CR are often-discussed product development strategies, but they don’t tell organizations where to start with the DevOps life cycle. To begin developing new products or features, organizations must first identify what exactly they’re building and for whom. As I often say to my product team, you need to get the kitchen ready before you can cook a great meal, but you need to know what meal you’re making before you start cooking the wrong thing.

CE refers to the continuous exploration of a company’s markets, target audiences and customers to understand their requirements and preferences. This may sound like the job of a marketing department, not product developers, but the two should work together in a coordinated fashion that helps to achieve both teams’ goals. For example, product development teams don’t know what new product features their customers love, which ones they hate or which ones they really need. On the other hand, marketing teams don’t know how to market products if they don’t understand the ins and outs of the new features and how they can be of service to customers.

Even departments within an organization that don’t develop products can benefit from CE. For example, if an organization is pursuing a cloud migration of on-premises software, they will likely hire an expert consultant or vendor to help them execute their cloud vision rather than developing their own cloud environment.

However, simply moving all of the on-premises systems and data to the cloud at once could be a catastrophe. What if you migrate systems and processes to the cloud and they suddenly stop working? Unless you’ve performed the migration at a gradual pace by following CI, CD, CR and CE strategies, you don’t know what, specifically, is causing the system error in the cloud.

In the same vein, by performing CE internally, organizations can determine which processes and on-premises systems would benefit most from cloud capabilities and execute the migration accordingly. This not only prioritizes technology transformation initiatives based on the needs of the business but may also let the business know which on-premises systems may no longer be needed in a cloud environment.

Many organizations interested in improving customer experience (CX) and internal processes by leveraging DevOps strategies would benefit greatly from leveraging CE. Products and businesses processes should be designed to meet the needs of customers and drive bottom-line revenue. So, it stands to reason that the first step in meeting the needs of customers is understanding those needs. This cannot be done without CE as the foundational building block of product development life cycles.

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