Advanced business capabilities

Many companies look with envy at Facebook, Netflix, and other cutting-edge technology companies because they have sophisticated features. Incremental change allows well-known practices such as hypotheses and data-driven development. Many companies yearn to incorporate their users into their feedback loop via multivariate testing. A key building block for many advanced DevOps practices is an architecture that can evolve. For example, developers find it difficult to perform A/B testing if a high degree of coupling exists between components, making isolation of concerns more daunting. Generally, an evolutionary architecture allows a company better technical responsiveness to inevitable but unpredictable changes.

Cycle time as a business metric

In “Deployment Pipelines”, we made the distinction between Continuous Delivery, where at least one stage in the deployment pipeline performs a manual pull, and Continuous Deployment, where every stage automatically promotes to the next upon success. Building continuous deployment takes a fair amount of engineering sophistication — why would a company go quite that far?

Because cycle time has become a business differentiator in some markets. Some large conservative organizations view software as overhead and thus try to minimize cost. Innovative companies see software as a competitive advantage. For example, if AcmeWidgets has created an architecture where the cycle time is three hours, and PenultimateWidgets still has a six-week cycle time, AcmeWidgets has an advantage they can exploit.

Many companies have made cycle time a first-class business metric, mostly because they live in a highly competitive market. All markets eventually become competitive in this way. For example, in the early 1990s, some big companies were more aggressive in moving toward automating manual workflows via software and gained a huge advantage as all companies eventually realized that necessity.

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