Over the past decade, many organizations have made strides to adopt DevOps in a bid to deliver better software faster. Automation is a key enabler for achieving success in DevOps — and one of the critical implementations of automation in a DevOps practice is CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery), which automates software development workflows to help teams cut down on manual tasks and ship software to customers at speed.
With developers writing and shipping code faster, an increase in multicloud adoption, and workplace environments in a pronounced period of change in light of COVID-19, organizations and software teams are increasingly exploring new ways to build better systems for shipping software and collaborating at scale in a newly distributed working world.
At GitHub, we have CI/CD tooling integrated directly into our core platform — and in working with developers and companies alike, we’ve seen the benefit that making CI/CD a core part of any workflow can have. Organizations that use an automated CI/CD platform can increase the number of merged pull requests by 36% and shrink time to merge by 33%. And when teams automate repetitive tasks like environment setups, data manipulation UIs or application deployment scripting, they report performing 27% better in open source and 43% better at work.
In that light, here are three ways organizations can benefit from investing in CI/CD and DevOps to build higher-quality software faster and collaborate more effectively while doing so.
Ensure Processes Are Consistent
At its most basic, automation is used in a DevOps practice to help teams ship code to production faster by reducing manual tasks and making each step in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) consistent and repeatable.
In the enterprise environment, CI/CD pipelines build on practices like this by automating the entire SDLC, from builds to testing and delivery, so organizations can systematize software development and bring consistency to each stage and its corresponding output. This means organizations can deliver software faster and developers can focus on more important work and remove the risk of human error by automating repeated and time-consuming tasks that are better accomplished by computers.
In addition to automation, there’s a cultural component in successful CI/CD practices, too. Instead of shipping large code changes that can take time to integrate and test with the code base, a CI/CD practice encourages developers to commit smaller changes more often versus waiting for one release. This helps software teams ship iterative updates faster since smaller code changes are easier to integrate, test and deploy compared to bigger updates. And when this cultural practice is combined with a CI/CD pipeline that automates code integrations, testing, packaging and delivery, it can help organizations ship better software with less issues more consistently.
In my own open source work, for instance, I use a simple automation workflow called PR Compliance Action to ensure every contribution meets my project standards. And if they don’t, I have an automated message that tells someone why their contribution failed.
Ship More Secure Software
Almost every developer knows how important it is to test their code before releasing it. Testing code regularly throughout the SDLC helps organizations discover bugs, security flaws and issues sooner, making it easier to fix them and helping to mitigate the downstream effects on the software supply chain.
But here’s a truism: Developers aren’t always as focused on testing their code as they are on building new code. This is where CI/CD comes in. When it’s successfully implemented, CI/CD can help produce bug-free code at high velocity by applying a consistent suite of tests and providing a feedback loop.
For organizations that have invested or are considering investing in CI/CD, this means it’s critically important to identify key testing points in their SDLC and design a testing suite to ensure that all code that’s shipped is secure. Many CI/CD platforms have prebuilt tests organizations can use to get started. But determining when and how tests are applied — and what mix of custom unit tests, application tests and static and dynamic security tests need to be leveraged — depends on the unique needs and requirements of an organization.
The goal of any automated testing suite is to ensure that codebases remain stable, secure and release-ready. By integrating code reviews and approvals into a CI/CD workflow, teams can improve their code quality, encourage collaboration through integrated development environments or pair programming, and help developers of all backgrounds make better commits. Logs, visual workflow builders, and deeply integrated tooling make it easier for developers to troubleshoot, understand complex workflows, and share their status with the larger team when a build fails.
The best CI/CD pipelines have security checks in place for code and permissions while providing a virtual paper trail for auditing failures, security breaches and noncompliance events. And some CI/CD pipelines even automate the development of release notes to create a log of changes and security updates for customers (I use the GitHub release API to generate automated release notes for my projects, and it makes things that much simpler).
Break Down Silos for Better Collaboration
In a DevOps practice, everyone is responsible for a product’s success — and collaboration across the SDLC sits at the cultural heart of DevOps.
A well-designed and executed CI/CD pipeline can help encourage cross-team collaboration by reducing the number of manual tasks and making it easier for developers to work together on higher-value software features and updates. In fact, a recent survey found that on days free of or with minimal interruptions, developers’ chances of having a good day were 82%, compared to just 7% when developers faced interruptions for the majority of the day.
As teams work together and share tools, automation supports consistency, reliability and efficiency across an organization, making it easier to discover and troubleshoot problems. CI/CD can help break down barriers and remove silos by creating real-time feedback loops where issues are immediately flagged for troubleshooting. This can help bring traditionally siloed teams like development, IT and operations together as a cohesive team to plan ahead and solve issues in real time.
## Take This with You
As more organizations move to adopt DevOps, there has been a concerted push to design and build CI/CD pipelines to ship higher-quality software faster. But the most successful CI/CD implementations also ensure a consistent end product, improve application security and foster collaboration and communication among teams. Getting CI/CD right means adopting the best tools for the job, embracing a DevOps culture and strategically thinking through the SDLC to enable developers to focus on what they love doing most: building great code.
Image by David Mark from Pixabay.