A stark disconnect exists between businesses and customers around the digital experience. This disconnect is summed up succinctly by a recent Qualtrics survey: 60% of companies think they’re providing a good mobile experience, but only 22% of consumers feel the same.
Often, companies think they’ve delivered what their customers want—a mobile-responsive website, iOS and Android apps, customer portals—only to find it’s not enough to keep them around. Meanwhile, customers have come to expect more and more from digital experiences, propagated by the digital fluency of other sectors; if I can Venmo my friend for sushi in a matter of seconds, why can’t I update my insurance policy with the same ease?
While the key to bridging this gap is digitally transforming your business, DevOps is a critical practice you’ll need to adopt to achieve successful modernization. DevOps is at the center of software engineering, technology operations, and Quality Assurance (QA). An extension of the Agile software development approach, DevOps enables continuous collaboration between all stakeholders of an application. In fact, it’s more than just a best practice—it’s a culture shift. Bringing all your teams together by breaking down traditional siloes helps businesses bring higher quality apps to market faster.
We’ve talked before about the power of automation in software development, but there are three more key ingredients that make up a successful DevOps environment: Continuous Integration, Scrum Collaboration, and Microservices. Together, these tactics help bridge the gap between what customers expect, and what your company can offer.
Continuous integration (CI) reduces the errors and time-to-build of applications. It’s the practice of moving coding projects into a shared repository many times a day as they are being built. Once in the repository, automated testing can be performed, and other teams can examine the project to detect any issues.
It’s like how a chef will taste their creation at every step of the recipe to ensure a mistake in the sauce doesn’t ruin the entire entrée.
CI involves writing small, easily-tested portions of code at a time. The CI system gives feedback on that code at regular intervals, leveraging statistics, output logs, and post-build steps. An advanced system can even send emails to the team when an issue is detected, streamlining workflows and limiting confusion between teams.
This tactic isn’t just for new apps. It can be applied to long-standing projects that never went through a robust QA process. With regression testing, CI scans the entire software even if a developer just makes a simple change, modifies the functionality, or repairs a bug. As you modernize and modify your existing apps, continuously integrated regression testing can identify conflicts and notify your dev teams to make a repair.
Continuous Scrum Collaboration is a more efficient way to perform Agile software development. It’s a project management framework that emphasizes the collaboration between team members and between the team and the customer. This allows faster and better responses to new or changed requirements.
Scrum teams are cross-functional, self-contained teams, comprised of developers, QA, as well as a representative of the Business (Product Owner), and they, along with a Scrum Master, make the updates and changes to applications according to their priority. It’s basically a bunch of developers that work collaboratively, rather than in a hierarchy. Every day, they plan out a “sprint,” or a collection of action items revolved around a specific result. At the end of the day, the Scrum team meets again to sync on the progress they’ve made. Finally, the team provides a review of the sprint to a project manager or any other stakeholders to get valuable feedback.
The ultimate goal of continuous Scrum collaboration is to shelter the developers from distractions that could include senior leadership’s oversight or an apparent bug in another section of the application. The teams can focus solely on the day’s sprint, and thus accomplish their tasks more efficiently. Scrum fits within DevOps through its emphasis on cross-functionality and limited hierarchies. Plus, with continuous reviews of every sprint, the development process becomes like a living organism that evolves and adapts easily to new feedback.
An effective microservices strategy helps Scrum teams organize their development for peak efficiency. It’s an architecture that breaks hard-to-manage, monolithic applications into smaller, discrete units of code (i.e. services). This creates a nimbler development environment that feeds perfectly into the DevOps environment.
With smaller units of code, or microservices, it’s easier to isolate, repair, and scale select parts of the application. Isolation allows the application to function smoothly even if there is an error in one of the microservices. When repairing that bit of code, developers can deploy it without having to redeploy the entire application. And finally, your team can identify and scale hot services independently of the whole application.
Microservices also allow developers to choose the technology stack that’s best suited for each bit of code. One microservice can be written in Python, with another written in C++, for example. This increases the efficiency and customization of your applications compared to a one-size-fits all approach.
That’s a lot of techie mumbo jumbo, but it may be the most important mumbo jumbo you can learn about if you’re hoping to meet customer expectations and gain a competitive edge. DevOps is critical to becoming a truly modern software company, and adopting a robust Quality Assurance philosophy with DevOps at the center will position your enterprise to scale your apps and increase your customer lifetime value.
Pyramid Consulting is full of QA geeks, and we often serve as enterprises’ entire QA department. So, whether you’re looking for a consultant, or a fully-prepared team that can put these tactics and strategies into practice, give us a call.