Top 8 Benefits of Using Continuous Deployment for Web and Mobile Apps
There was a time when analog seemed entirely passé, and digital was king. Analog clocks gave way to digital, as did the methods of taking and storing pictures. A similar thing happened with vacuum tubes, but that now ancient technology persisted in specialized use cases long past its supposed death. The notion of analog is regaining some of its old luster. A discontinuous, or digital, production process remains highly disruptive, especially in this modern age of agile development, and shorter and shorter development cycles.
It’s remarkable to see the patterns of history unfolding before our very eyes, either through personal experience or through the details documented by writers old and new.
The patterns in software development are particularly fascinating. Like the old notion of calculus limits, we’re approaching that infinitesimally small amount of discrete change that describes the tangent to the curve of that change. In this case, the change we’re talking about is product versioning.
We may never arrive at continuity-based product versioning which describes a fully analog change, but we are moving in that direction — toward the deployment of each line of code as it is written. This is similar to the notion in science that nothing is ever settled so long as there are unknowns in the universe, and that the “truth” that science approaches is never a reachable destination, but always and only a vector — a direction. Such is the nature of software product change.
Already, we have product version cycles that overlap, with the development of one version before we get feedback on the previous version. Why is this so important? There are a number of reasons.
1. Smaller batches of changes are easier to produce.
This should seem obvious. Writing any code takes time, not only to develop, but also to validate and to debug. All other things being equal, a smaller batch of upgrades means less time spent in development.
2. Smaller batches of changes are easier for end-users to discover and learn.
In order to achieve that much needed and valuable feedback, users have to know about the changes. Even if you supply your users with a list of all meaningful changes, the shorter the list, the more engagement you’re likely to receive. Imagine for a moment, being presented with a list of 10 changes. Not bad. You might find 2 or 3 that interest you enough to investigate them. But then consider how you’d react to a list of 1,000 changes. Again, you might find 2 or 3 that interest you, but the rate of engagement has dropped dramatically — from 2-out-of-10 to 2-out-of-1,000.
3. Smaller batches means more rapid feedback.
This is also one of those “no brainers.” You’re far more likely to get meaningful feedback from a small batch of changes than you are from a large batch. That’s just part of human nature.
4. Like Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), smaller changes reduce the overall risk of version defection.
The worst case scenario is where end-users uninstall the app in disgust. This drive toward a more analog-like development cycle can be viewed as an extension of the MVP mindset. Reduced risk, faster and more complete feedback, and shorter change cycle so you have more hands-on control of the development and its direction — control that is more intelligent, because it has the feedback from those who matter.
5. Earlier ROI on each feature developed.
Return on investment (ROI) is always a concern in business. With more rapid feedback, and each new feature getting more of a spotlight because of the smaller batch of changes, such changes have a measurable effect on app version popularity.
6. Reduced need for large capital investments.
As with the MVP strategy, with continuous deployment, investors are never tapped for a huge outlay. It’s all small and incremental. This means more small companies can get in on the mobile and web app gravy train. Success still depends on quality design and coding, but smaller teams with tighter budgets have a greater chance to enter the game.
7. Increased possibility for parallel testing.
With closer to real-time feedback, as new features are released, development teams have greater freedom to do parallel, or A/B testing. This way, they can check to see which implementation of a feature end-users prefer. This affords the developers a finer level of testing and ultimately a far smarter steering of the product through its versions.
8. Takes the pressure off of developers by eliminating the dreaded “Release Day.”
There no longer is a big event known as “Release Day.” Development and release is done in small batches. With continuous deployment, you have a fully functioning application with each line of code that is committed. Automated testing takes a lot of the headache out of the process. Any development failures have a smaller impact on developer egos and ulcers.
The evolution of software development toward continuous deployment
We’ve come a long way from hand-coded, machine language patch boards and the tedious nature of assembly language. Higher level languages have taken some of the burden off of developers, allowing them to concentrate more and more on the idea of an app, rather than its nuts and bolts, or framework.
Continuous Integration allowed us to automate the build and initial testing phases of the development cycle. Continuous Delivery allowed us to automate everything else except the “deployment to production” aspect. And Continuous Deployment automated even that last detail.
Each stage of process improvement has enhanced the development cycle, bringing it closer and closer to a continuous (analog) flow.
What’s beyond continuous deployment? There may be several next steps, but ultimately software development may be headed toward AI assist, where you merely tell an Artificially Intelligent module what you want to achieve and it will use the best language available for the task and produce the finished code, fully integrated, delivered and deployed. Beyond even that, we might see AI take care of the task description, following broad policies, rather than specific task requests.
Summary of Continuous Deployment benefits
- Smaller batches of changes are easier to produce.
- Smaller batches of changes are easier for end-users to discover and learn.
- Smaller batches means more rapid feedback.
- Like Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), smaller changes reduce the overall risk of version defection.
- Earlier ROI on each feature developed.
- Reduced need for large capital investments.
- Increased possibility for parallel testing.
- Takes the pressure off of developers by eliminating the dreaded “Release Day.”
Continuous deployment is the next, logical step in the art of software development — a step many have already taken up. There may be instances where a company cannot take that route because of regulatory or company policy restrictions. But beyond these constraints, the future of software creation seems clearly in support of continuous deployment.