How people, processes and technology determine DevOps success

In this guest post, Eran Kinsbruner, lead technical evangelist at DevOps software supplier Perfecto, talks about why success in agile software development hinges on getting the people, processes and technology elements all in alignment

In a super-charged digital environment where competition is fierce and speed and quality are crucial, many organisations are incorporating DevOps practices (including continuous integration and continuous delivery) into their software development processes.

These companies know software is safer when people with complementary skills in technical operations and software development work together, not apart. However, to keep succeeding organisations must be committed to on-going self-evaluation and embrace the need to change when necessary.

Keeping it fresh is key to success – and for us, this comes from three primary areas; people, processes and technology.

The people part of the DevOps equation

The developer’s role is constantly evolving, and functions that were once owned by testers or quality assurance (QA) teams now fall firmly under their remit. This means new skills are needed, and it’s important that organisations are committed to upskilling their developers.

For some, this means facilitating the mentoring of testers by highly qualified developers. And for others it means considering a change in software development practices to include Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD), which promotes defining tests as code is written.

Test automation becomes a core practice during feature development rather than afterwards. Depending on team skills, implementing Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) (which implements test automation with simple English-like syntax) serves less technical teams extremely well. There are bound to be blind spots between developer, business and test personas – and choosing development practices matched to team skills can contribute to accelerating development velocity.

Leadership is another critical aspect of success in DevOps and continuous testing. Diverse teams and personas call for strong leadership as a unifying force, and a leader’s active role in affecting change is crucial. Of course, part of leadership is to enforce stringent metrics and KPIs which help to keep everyone on track.

The importance of process

Teams must always work to clean up their code and to do it regularly. That includes more than just testing. Code refactoring (the process of restructuring computer code) is important for optimal performance, as is continually scanning for security holes.

It also includes more than just making sure production code is ‘clean’. It’s crucial to ‘treat test code as production code’ and maintain that too. Good code is always tested and version controlled.

Code can be cleaned and quality ensured in several ways. The first is through code reviews and code analysis; making make sure code is well-maintained and there are no memory leaks. Using dashboards, analytics and other visibility enablers can also help power real-time decision making which is based on concrete data – and can help teams deliver quicker and more accurately.

Finally, continuous testing by each feature team is important. Often, a team is responsible for specific functional components along with testing, and so testing code merges locally is key to detect issues earlier. Only then can teams be sure that, once a merge happens into the main branch, the entire product is not broken, and that the overall quality picture is kept consistent and visible at all times.

Let’s talk technology

When there is a mismatch between the technology and the processes or people, development teams simply won’t be able to meet their objectives

A primary technology in development is the lab itself. A test environment is the foundation of the entire testing workflow, including all continuous integration activities. It perhaps goes without saying that when the lab is not available or unstable, the entire process breaks.

For many, the requirement for speed and quality means a shift to open-source test automation tools. But, as with many free and open-source software markets, a plethora of tools complicates the selection process. Choosing an ideal framework isn’t easy, and there are material differences between the needs of developers and engineers, which must be catered for.

A developer’s primary objective is for fast feedback for their localised code changes. Frameworks like Espresso, XCUITest and JSDom or Headless Chrome Puppeteer are good options for this.

A test engineer, on the other hand, concentrates on the integration of various developers into a complete packaged product, and for that, their end-to-end testing objectives require different frameworks, like Appium, Selenium or Protractor. And production engineers are executing end-to-end tests to identify and resolve service degradations before the user experience is impacted. Frameworks such as Selenium or Protractor are also relevant here but the integration with monitoring and alerting tools becomes essential to fit into their workflow.

With such different needs, many organisations opt for a hybrid model, where they use several frameworks in tandem.

People, processes and technology – together

Ultimately, we believe that only by continually re-evaluating people, processes and technology – the three tenets of DevOps – can teams achieve accelerated delivery while ensuring quality. It’s crucial in today’s hyper-competitive landscape that speed and quality go hand in hand, and so we’d advise every organisation to take a look at their own operations and see how they can be spring-cleaned for success.

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