February 22, 2024

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The Business Case for Continuous Delivery

4 min read
The Business Case for Continuous Delivery

Illustration showing arrows appearing to flow in an infinity symbol, representing the DevOps loop

Continuous delivery (CD) pipelines automatically release code to live environments as it’s integrated into your project’s main branch. This allows developers to focus on building new features, instead of manually rolling out deployments.

CD is often discussed in the context of developer productivity but it’s also a competitive asset for your business. In this article you’ll learn how CD adds business value, and the ways in which it benefits you and your customers.

1. You Can Ship Code More Quickly

The first advantage is plain: a carefully implemented CD pipeline allows you to deliver code more quickly. The pipeline itself will take some time to run, but that’s time in which your developers and operators can continue performing other productive tasks, like writing more code.

The team’s overall throughput is increased because all engineers can commit themselves to adding value. After code’s been reviewed, tested in a CI pipeline, and merged into the project, the team gets to move straight onto the next feature. The CD stage will push the newly released code to customers without any further intervention.

The ability to maximize throughput will always be a distinguishing point for businesses. Although the time saving for each change might be small, they add up over the thousands of revisions an organization creates over the course of a year. The project’s overall velocity increases, improving your ability to rapidly respond to market dynamics, customer requirements, and external pressures such as updated third-party APIs.

2. Reduce Deployment Risk

Code deployments are an inherently risky activity. Manual scripts that rely on human actions are prone to failure. You could push to the wrong environment or accidentally repeat an earlier deployment, causing newer code to be overwritten. Many processes lack adequate safeguards to prevent these problems.

CD provides a neat solution by sending each deployment through a consistent automated pipeline. You can confidently assert that all code’s being deployed in the same way, after essential tests and compliance checks have been performed.

Removing direct access to production environments has security benefits too. You can lockdown your infrastructure because fewer people will need to use it. This reduces your attack surface and makes it easier to demonstrate that all releases have met regulatory requirements.

3. Your Teams Will Thank You

A simpler developer experience will boost your team culture. People are happiest when they’re productive, not when they’re having to spend time managing releases.

Fewer overheads and deeper focus means deeper work and greater progress. Not only will your business have more opportunity to innovate, but engineers will also be more motivated to contribute. Moreover, code that reaches customers more quickly will flow back to developers in the form of a tighter feedback loop and knowledge that their work quickly enters use.

4. Faster Time to Market

Standardizing your continuous delivery systems across your organization can lower the time to market for new products. There’s one way to ship code to production, instead of disparate scripts and processes for individual systems.

Delivery workflows can be centrally managed by a dedicated platform engineering team. Each product can be published using the familiar internal platform, reducing the setup time required for new business units and applications.

5. Shared Responsibility for Releases

CD distributes responsibility for releases among several stakeholders. Business leaders need to ensure there’s a suitable team culture that allows CD to be adopted. Operators and platform engineers should build the tools that implement the technical side of CD, while developers are tasked with writing sufficient tests to maintain code quality. The actual act of deployment is automated by the CD pipeline.

Sharing the workload in this way enhances collaboration and reduces the workload for individual teams. It’s easier to iterate and discuss improvements to the delivery process. Everyone’s working collectively to enhance delivery from their perspective, which also helps the neighboring teams.

6. It’s Not That Hard

Continuous delivery doesn’t have to be difficult to set up and maintain. At its simplest, it could be a job in a CI pipeline that uploads your build to an existing web server or publishing partner. Don’t feel like you have to jump straight to trendy cloud-native technologies like Kubernetes, as they’re not a prerequisite for successful CD.

CD isn’t always expensive either, although some upfront investment will be required to set up your pipelines and train operators, developers, and administrators on how they work. Revising workflows is always going to cause a degree of disruption.

CD has minimal long-term overheads, however, so your return on investment should be high. While establishing dedicated platform teams has a significant cost, this isn’t required to begin with and won’t usually be necessary for smaller teams. Over the lifetime of your project, the increased throughput unlocked by letting engineers focus on product developments should outweigh any costs your CD implementation incurs.

Conclusion

Continuous delivery (CD) increases the productivity and throughput of software development teams by automating the release process. This frees up engineers to focus on building new features, instead of maintaining deployment scripts.

CD empowers your organization to ship code whenever it’s ready. It also increases your visibility into what’s actually been deployed, ensuring changes don’t get forgotten. Code that has to be passed through a manual release process can get stuck waiting for another team’s review or action. With CD you can be confident that urgent bug fixes reach customers as soon as they’re merged, without skipping any essential stages.

CD can improve DevOps performance metrics such as deployment frequency and your time to restore service. Automating releases lets you ship smaller blocks of code more frequently, while the possibility of easy rollbacks helps you rapidly fix any issues that do reach production. Shipping quality code on a quicker cadence lets you deliver more value to customers, increasing your organization’s competitive chances.

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