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    June 5, 2024

    A Simple Way to Stop the Chaos in Development: Why Automation is Essential

    When we look at the transformation initiatives pursued within various software organizations, we would be hard pressed to find one that hasn’t embarked on the DevOps journey.  However, even with the core tenet of CI/CD, I am still perplexed when I look at how DevOps has evolved in many organizations over the past 15 years.  More often than not, I find teams in many organizations are overlooking some of the lowest hanging fruit; relatively easy steps that can dramatically improve efficiency, alignment, and visibility. Automation is a primary example.

    Automating basic tasks like branching, code change commits, and pull request merges is a real game changer.  When diving into the reasons why teams aren't automating these tasks, I often hear responses like “We have a documented process for our developers to follow,” or “We are focused on the developer experience and don't want to constrain our teams.”  I’m not diminishing the importance of those two statements but…if teams are more focused on checking a box than truly understanding where they can employ automation in their DevOps value streams, they might as well abandon their efforts and return to the days of putting it all on the shoulders of the configuration management team!

    I’m not using hyperbole to grab attention; I’m sharing information based on my experience and on insights drawn from recent value stream assessments conducted with very large software development organizations.  Here are a few surprises that I uncovered when working with two Global 500 companies:

    1. I was helping a global manufacturer in the generative AI space to develop better capabilities around their DORA metrics. I discovered they had a manual process for capturing user stories against their pull requests.  I was assured that the developers always executed this step.  So, we had a little fun and developed an exception report to track the actual steps.  Lo and behold, we found that less than 50% of pull requests included the user story ID. 
    2. I worked with the development team of a large company in the travel industry. In reviewing their branching process, which was executed by over 5,000 developers, I found they had defined a manual branching and naming methodology.  This immediately put the spotlight on their inability to enforce policies and do auditing.  Validating adherence was near impossible as it could only be spot checked through sample batches of branches created.

    “So what?” you may be asking yourself.  Well…in a nutshell, within the fast-paced world of software development, efficient code management is paramount to the success of your company.  Relying on manual processes can introduce a plethora of challenges that hinder productivity, security, product stability, and speed to market.  In my career, I have delved into the DevOps practices of numerous organizations.  When you don’t automate your code management processes, you will face numerous challenges that worsen over time.  

    Here are two challenges that I find the most common and impactful:

    1. Lack of compliance

    1. Difficulty in enforcing coding standards across a development team
    2. Increased chances of code inconsistencies and quality issues
    3. Challenges in maintaining a unified coding style

    Organizations operating in regulated industries face compliance challenges when code management is not automated. Automated systems help ensure adherence to regulatory requirements and facilitate audit trails.

    2. Limited scalability

    1. Manual processes fail to scale with growing codebases
    2. Challenges in managing larger projects and complex dependencies
    3. Potential bottlenecks and delays in development as projects expand

    Analyses of large-scale software development projects highlight the inability of manual processes to scale efficiently. Automation is crucial for managing complex codebases and dependencies.

    For teams in many organizations, achieving compliance and scalability across the code management function can seem like a daunting task.  It's often perceived as an introduction of overhead with burdensome processes.  But it doesn't have to be and what’s more amazing is you can start to solve these challenges with some basic automations, as shown below.

    Figure 1: Value Stream Workflow Map

    This simple automation takes less than a day to implement and delivers immediate value.  Through this automation we are able to:

    1. Automate the creation of branches enforcing standard naming conventions
    2. Automatically require the definition of the relationship of user story to pull request for seamless traceability
    3. Create visibility by linking work across the various tools supporting the code management process
    4. Enforce and facilitate governance and compliance by automating change management processes
    5. Provide an automation framework that allows for the onboarding of additional development teams and that can be easily updated to add or augment steps in the process

    In conclusion, to achieve the next level of DevOps maturation, teams must make automation a cornerstone of their strategy.  In a day, you can take steps to improve productivity, product stability, and security.  The return on investment (ROI) for these types of automation initiatives is undeniable.  With minimal effort to configure automation solutions across developers’ activities, organizations can begin solving for compliance and scalability, not only streamlining their operations but also significantly enhancing the developer experience. This proactive approach saves time and resources, fostering a culture of innovation and agility within the organization, ultimately leading to sustained growth and competitiveness.

    Let us help you identify automation opportunities in your software development processes today. The benefits are clear and compelling, and you'll be the driving force behind your team's success and digital transformation.

    In a complimentary, two-hour discovery session, our value stream experts will help you identify automation opportunities across your product delivery value stream. By the end of the session, you will have a detailed, end-to-end value stream map of your tooling ecosystem and all the interconnected automation patterns.

    Learn or Schedule your Value Stream Mapping Now

    Scot Garrison

    Scot Garrison has over 25 years experience leading product and services delivery. He is a value stream specialist with extensive expertise in business process development and refactoring across multiple industries. His career has encompassed both software and hardware development, with a particular focus on payment...

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