With business needs changing so frequently, and customers demanding new and improved features from software applications, there is a lot that continuous delivery offers to companies. 

Continuous Delivery, which is much broader than continuous deployment, ensures that the entire value chain, right from the requirement gathering until production deployment, works like an assembly line in a manufacturing plant. It helps application development teams deliver high-quality work in small batches with a heavy focus on automation. It ensures that an “always deployable” software is available throughout the application lifecycle. Essentially, it creates a platform for Continuous Improvement.

It allows businesses to build quality right from the beginning and get changes of all types into production faster and more reliably and in a sustainable way. 

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An introduction to the various continuous functions 

In a highly dynamic world where improved time to market is a requisite to react to changes quickly, the importance of continuity cannot be understated. And it’s not just about continuous delivery, but an array of other continuous functions that allow teams to release quality products quickly. By integrating all functions from the beginning, continuous functions also reduce the risk around product releases. 

Here’s a sneak peek into the various critical continuous functions (which are part of continuous delivery): 

  1. Continuous development: An iterative software development methodology, continuous development enables development teams to update software with new features several times continuously – instead of just once at the end of the year.  
  2. Continuous integration: With quality code fast becoming the sole differentiating factor between successful and unsuccessful businesses, continuous integration ensures the coding efforts of various developers are integrated into a central repository so changes can be fused together - quickly and easily - and bugs can be detected early in the life cycle. 
  3. Continuous deployment: With the need for software applications to reflect changes immediately as they are made, continuous deployment ensures that any change that passes through the automated testing phase is automatically released into the production environment, and visible to users. 
  4. Continuous testing: As software users get more and more finicky about software quality, continuous testing automates the testing process, providing teams with quick feedback on bugs and risks – so that they can be rectified as soon as possible. 

The critical but missing piece is continuous support

Although the various continuous functions form an integral part of the continuous delivery pipeline, allowing for the release of quality, bug-free code quickly and efficiently, a critical but missing piece of the jigsaw is continuous support. 

Continuous delivery is only complete when teams integrate continuous support to continuous development. Continuous support ensures that developers are not only responsible for building and testing their code, but also for supporting - if there are problems. By directing issues and incidents to the right people, continuous support ensures problems in working software are solved as quickly as possible. Every incident or issue, when supported by remediation documents can ensure incidents are quickly diagnosed and resolved by people from different teams. What’s more, objective and continuous review of incidents can help teams pinpoint specific, service-affecting issues and address them at the earliest. 

That apart, it is also important to ensure the integration of Continuous Deployment to Continuous Support. The handover from engineering to service team cannot be just about the handover the deployable running code, it is also about sharing and transferring knowledge that is critical for supporting the customer.

The role of integrated incident management, problem management, request management, and change management

In many organizations, the development team and the service desk team often operate separately and use disparate tools to carry out operations. 

However, for continuous delivery to really make sense, organizations have to bring ITSM and ALM together and eliminate these silos. Such integration allows development teams to have better visibility of the support tickets that they are working on, and service desk teams to be aware of the ongoing development activities.  

It is only when ITSM and ALM are integrated that organizations can ensure support and delivery teams are always in sync. Here’s how the various aspects of ITSM fit in here: 

  1. Integrated incident management: Continuous delivery aims to ensure new changes and features are released to customers on a continuous basis. Any issue or incident can lead to loss of or disruption to the application. Integrated incident management ensures teams are able to identify, analyze, and rectify incidents. By incorporating Agile methodology into the incident management process, enterprises can fill the gaps between people, processes, and tools, and enable frequent communication for quick and timely resolution of issues. 
  2. Integrated problem management:  As quality software becomes a requisite for high-performing organizations, simply resolving bugs and issues is not enough. What is required is finding the root cause of incidents that are re-occurring and fixing them permanently to drive user satisfaction and business value. Integrated problem management decentralizes the process to different Agile teams, so no one person is responsible for solving problems. It allows development teams to identify incidents that are re-occurring, understand the impact and prioritize and solve them based on their impact.
  3. Integrated request management: With traditional request management processes taking weeks or even months for designing and deploying complex service requests, the time to value is greatly affected, limiting speed and flexibility. Integrated request management allows teams to create, test, and deploy service requests in a simple, iterative manner and then scale and expand them across the enterprise. By incorporating the concepts of Agile, it allows requests to be handled almost instantly – without slowing or interrupting the development process.
  4. Integrated change management: Adaptiveness and response to change is the most essential concept of Agile methodology. Yet, dealing with changes in software development is never easy. Integrated change management streamlines the process of introducing changes into software code – without affecting the quality or pace of development. It allows change practitioners to be more flexible and adaptable and enables them to fuel communication, engage sooner, and achieve early wins with respect to changes. 
  5. Tighter feedback loops ensure improved customer service

The continuous paradigm, through all continuous functions, accelerates the feedback process and reflects the level of business risk in the latest build or release candidate.

Since testing begins early in the life cycle, risks are exposed and rectified as soon as they are introduced. Development teams can then prevent those risks from progressing to the next stage. When software quality efforts and testing are aligned with business and customer expectations, continuous delivery helps teams focus their efforts on the quality tasks that will have the greatest impact, based on their organization's goals and priorities.

Such tight feedback loops not only reduce the time and effort spent in finding and fixing defects but also increase the speed and frequency at which quality software is delivered while improving customer service. Feedback metrics can also help in re-examining the process, and incrementally improving it for optimum results. 

With applications hosted on the cloud, this becomes even more critical

As more and more applications get hosted on the cloud, the need for continuous delivery which includes continuous service gets all the more crucial. 

Today’s customers expect a quicker response. This requires software development teams to automate the software delivery process and ensure new features and changes are introduced immediately. Production of software in an iterative manner is the need of the hour. Continuous delivery,  which includes all continuous functions including ALM. DevOps, and ITSM, ensures that releases happen frequently and the end objective of customer delight is achieved. When applied properly, software projects can be planned, developed and deployed in the most effective, efficient and optimal way possible – meeting the distinct needs of customers and ensuring higher levels of satisfaction.

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