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When does CI/CD mess up your software development?

How to adjust CI/CD

If not done correctly, CI/CD can have a serious impact on your team's productivity and ability to meet deadlines

CI/CD stands for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery and includes tools and methods that help you automate the software development process.

The primary purpose of CI is to let you integrate code changes into a shared code repository multiple times a day. This way, you catch bugs and errors sooner, and you're less likely to have merge conflicts.

CD, on the other hand, is all about automating the process of getting your code from development into production. You can automate the entire process, from compiling code to deploying it into a live environment.

Both CI and CD are essential parts of modern DevOps. But they can also mess things up if you're not careful.

CI/CD challenges

CI/CD can help you enforce rigid quality checks and feedback loops to catch and fix errors before they become a problem. To adjust CI/CD, you should have mature processes in your software project and the right people in place to handle specific responsibilities. Here are the key points to pay attention to:

  • Focus on automation. CI assumes that all tasks are processed automatically. To implement this you need to hire professional automation QA engineers who can add automated tests for all new features as they are developed.

  • Continuous testing. In CI/CD, the apps are tested throughout the entire development lifecycle in specific CI/CD environments. To adjust such environments, you need the help of experienced DevOps who can use Jenkins, GitLab, and other CI/CD tools.

  • Frequent code deployments to the server. Thisassumes releasing small change packages where the programmers can easily find bugs and quickly fix them. Frequent code deployments require thorough planning and supreme project management skills, so it's vital to have an expert project manager in your team.

Classic CI/CD pipeline
Classic CI/CD pipeline

CI/CD in practice

In a classic CI/CD pipeline, manual tasks play a small part in the development lifecycle, which is not always possible in practice. Typically, organizations use CI/CD to deliver code changes, reasonably covered by autotests, to the development environment. Next, after going through manual testing, code changes are collected in a release tag and rolled out to production.

Why is full automation not always possible in software projects?

Imagine that you have an online store and you are creating the functionality of adding products to the cart. In a classic CI/CD framework, you will send the implemented feature for auto-testing, and after that, immediately to production.

In a classic CI/CD, you would also write an autotest in parallel with the feature implementation, because you know exactly how the feature will function.

In the real world, however, it is impossible to foresee every detail. No matter how carefully you describe the app logic and user scenarios, after the implementation of the feature, there certainly will be details that you would want to fix or fine-tune.

In the above example, such a detail could be an inconvenient cart location on the page or an inappropriate cart size. A more significant drawback could be an inability to pass the checkout after translating the cart interface with Google Translate and an inability to return to the product page after translating.

Manual testing easily detects such shortcomings, and you can quickly fix them before the product reaches end customers.

Automation, in turn, identifies lower-level issues and logic-relative bugs and usually precedes manual checks in CI/CD flow.

Typical CI/CD pipeline in modern software projects
Typical CI/CD pipeline in modern software projects

CI/CD in mobile development

In an increasingly competitive environment and with growing customer expectations, businesses are trying to speed up the development process and release the finished product faster. Continuous integration/continuous delivery is one of the most efficient ways to achieve fast results. However, organizations should integrate it into the development process with the project-specific in mind.

When it comes to mobile development, the teams should take into account app moderation conducted by App Store and Google Play. Usually, it takes from several hours to days and is applied to both publishing new apps in the store and updating the version of existing apps.

After the new version is released, the user can manually update the app on their phone or get an automatic update if appropriate app settings are adjusted. Given this, the classic CI/CD cycle seems risky for mobile development because a buggy app cannot be fixed immediately. If there is an issue in the released update, users will have to experience inconvenience for several days until the App Store or Google Play approves the next version update. As a result, the app may receive tons of negative feedback, and the brand is likely to damage its reputation.

What should your DevOps engineers be capable of?

To improve the development process with CI/CD, your DevOps and QA lead must find the right balance between automatic and manual tasks. The more that processes are automated, the faster the product will be developed. The more detailed that autotests are made, the smaller is the effort required from manual QA.

Typically, the CI/CD pipeline for a software project should be seen as a common effort by all team members, including the CTO, business analysts, developers, DevOps, and QAs.

Considering project resources and expected deadlines, the team should land on the same page regarding the development flow and determine:

  • development and testing methods

  • development and testing tools

  • IT Infrastructure

  • release frequency

  • accepted bug rate

  • bug gradation

  • etc.

Once the team agrees on a product development strategy, DevOps should implement a CI/CD environment that meets the specific project requirements.

Note. In the modern world, where software development is often based on cloud technologies, big data, and AI/ML tools, the role of a DevOps engineer may not cover all the requirements for the CI/CD cycle. In this case, organizations should look for more narrow-focused and task-specific specialists. Such roles as GitOps, MlOps, AIOps, and DataOps can add value to the development flow and help facilitate a more efficient CI/CD pipeline.

The future of CI/CD

The future of CI/CD is linked to the growing automation of development routines. Automated algorithms evolve, mature, and undertake more human responsibilities. Today, computer programs are not limited to solving simple tasks. They address complex problems that require analysis, decision-making, and understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.

Although current CI/CD processes often include manual tasks, the automation trend is growing in current software projects. The more intellectual and material investments the company makes, the more efficient the CI/CD becomes, and the less manual effort is required from the team.

In any case, businesses should consider the project budget, expected deadlines, team expertise, and current state of development processes when setting up CI/CD. They should also weigh the pros and cons of adopting specific CI/CD technologies and tap into a proper combination of automation and manual jobs.

To find a way to make the CI/CD process work better for your team, talk to your developers and see what solutions they might have. If you need further assistance, get a quote from our consultants.

September 29, 2022