Ah, the retail industry’s biggest question. Speculating on the future of buying, selling and consumer behaviour has garnered many opinions down the years – especially because the latest technologies have been added to this mix. As we soon approach 2020, what [realistic] expectations should we have with regards to what eCommerce entails – for business owners, UI/UX designers, developers and digital marketing specialists alike?
Contrary to popular perception, the latest tech trends or business intelligence aren’t the end all and be all of future eCommerce. Sure, they may substantially contribute to your overall business development strategy, but relying on the more sophisticated requisites alone just isn’t going to cut it. For this reason, we need to back-track a little, and simplify.
Everything nowadays is fast-paced, period. The industry of software development and technology however, is one of the fastest. Our world as we know it today erred towards the side of rapid advancement a long time ago. Advancement as we experience it, has only been made possible through technology, and what makes technology workable?
Software, of course.
As we grow dependent on the numerous digital nuances around us, the demand for services has also been subsequently increasing. The timely delivery of efficient software is what will satisfy these demands, no matter the nature or size of your business.
This is where continuous delivery comes in. Derived out of the need to generate quality features to customers more frequently, this software development trend is more than a mere buzzword – it’s an essential. While continuous delivery is a facet pertaining to software or mobile app development, it’s more of something that proactively helps businesses attain lucrative objectives.
In order to understand why continuous delivery is a must-have when building software, let’s go back to the basics.
Conventionally, software is always released and updated in bigger batches. Perhaps once a year, or after the onset of several complex bugs. Until then, the older, glitchy version is all that users have to make the most of. As a user, this sounds daunting, doesn’t it?
With continuous delivery, it doesn’t have to be this way! Owing to frequent but smaller updates, your working piece of software stays flawless and up-to-date, while keeping customers happy. Here are some things to keep in mind, when it comes to continuous delivery:
Considering all the above pointers, continuous delivery does seem like an option that’s far more versatile than its bulkier Waterfall counterpart. But how, exactly? Here’s the lowdown.
1. Stay competitive in the market, by releasing the latest features to users at the soonest possible
Ultimately, the goal is to ensure happy customers and thereby, great revenue. Through continuous delivery and deployment, releasing the latest version of your software is now made possible, especially during a time when your competitors are rolling out new features by the second. If you don’t keep up, your business is bound to lose traction.
In due course, every version of your software will also be something that your users love. This is because user feedback can be taken into account the moment a new feature is rolled out, and any changes can be made if it isn’t received well. Therefore, a feedback loop can be constantly maintained, and users will feel valued as they notice their suggestions being incorporated into the latest versions of your software.
Making changes so frequently wouldn’t have been possible by conventional means. This is further elaborated below.
2. Encounter less risk as changes are incorporated in smaller batches
Contrary to what most operations specialists believe, frequent delivery and deployment of smaller updates can be less risky. In fact, updates that are bulkier and are done so less frequently have a risk of failure, as more bugs will need to be dealt with. On top of that, who’s to say that your users may take to your software product? At this point, bugs aren’t even the main concern. If your users dislike something fundamental such as the UI, chances are that you will need to start over from scratch!
Needless to say, such a situation is a nightmare for any project manager, developer and product owner. This can be completely avoided through continuous delivery, as smaller batches of working software are regularly released to your users. Feedback can then be taken into consideration, and any changes that’ll need to be made will be much easier as they’ll be in equally small numbers, and at an infant stage.
It’s always wise to remember that bugs are part and parcel of building any software, no matter how advanced your development methodologies are. A length of code written during development will behave differently once it is put into production, irrespective of how accurately it is written. This is where a DevOps culture once again comes in handy, as both developers and systems administrators collaborate to incorporate continuous delivery through automating key functions of the software development and deployment process.
More frequent changes mean that version control can also be maintained through a platform such as GitHub. This can assist for monitoring purposes in the future, to perform bug fixing lest something goes wrong, or to even identify patterns.
3. The ability to focus on tasks that are important, thanks to a stringent deployment pipeline
In order to execute continuous delivery, a deployment pipeline needs to be established. Containing start and end points (delivery and release respectively), with different testing methodologies in-between, this helps teams identify any glitches well ahead in advance and send it back to the start point for re-iteration. This way, whatever leaves the pipeline will be of high quality and in excellent working condition. Should there still be any bugs post release, it means that the deployment pipeline needs to be improved, by first determining the problem area.
This may take a few tries, and may even be a constant work in progress. But once the deployment pipeline has been ascertained, it will help streamline continuous delivery to the point where it will save businesses money. Time is another advantage.
As flexible testing methodologies and bite-sized changes are used to execute continuous delivery, team members don’t experience the kind of stress associated with bulky, traditional modes of deployment. They now have the opportunity to focus on tasks that impact business objectives, such as product enhancement and incorporating customer feedback for improving user experiences.
With today’s digital landscape dominating every aspect of our lives and evolving at lightning fast speed, we need to stay on top of it all – or lose out to our competition. Software is what drives every digital platform that we are dependent on, and ensuring it isn’t just in working condition, but is also up-to-date is essential to keep our customers happy.
Continuous delivery is what makes this possible. Through a foundation of DevOps, such a collaborative culture is crucial for continuous delivery to thrive. This is all about releasing smaller changes out to the market, so that your software can offer your customers the best of your product/service, without having to wait years, months or even weeks to use a new feature/get rid of a bug.
Continuous integration is another constituent for continuous delivery. This involves inputting code written by multiple developers into a server, to check for inaccuracies. This is then followed by a deployment pipeline, which further streamlines testing and releases a software version that is problem-free and ready for use.
While immediate access to the latest features is a key advantage of continuous delivery, it also empowers your business to stay on top of its competition. With so many choices available, it’s easier to lose customers than gain any, and you want to make sure that you’re ahead of the game. On top of that, a well versed deployment pipeline can also help your business save money, as the rigid (and expensive) testing procedures of yesteryear are completely eliminated from the process of continuous delivery.
Apart from customer satisfaction and cost savings, continuous delivery welcomes a host of other benefits for developers. With smaller, incremental changes, there is less risk involved for businesses – and less frustration involved for customers. Bugs can be fixed and feedback addressed much faster. This is because bigger updates mean bigger changes, and therefore more time to release the update back into the market.
As desirable as it sounds, continuous delivery cannot be embraced without the right mindset. What’s more, the process will require some trial and error before it is formalised, as no two software development needs are the same. But once these hurdles are passed, continuous delivery and deployment can be a reliable gateway towards on-demand software development – no matter what your customers’ whims and fancies are.