Continuous integration has emerged on the forefront of the agile development and DevOps movements. Widespread mobile device use, the Internet of Things and similar trends have also influenced the rise of continuous integration. Essentially, agile and DevOps are accelerating app development processes. This in turn, leads to an increased rate of releases coming in the form of updates, patches and new apps being deployed. Throw in smartphones, tablets and other devices involved in IoT architectures and you are looking at a situation in which many instances of applications need to be released so that they can be optimized for multiple operating systems and device types.
However, like many new trends in enterprise IT, continuous integration presents significant opportunities for value creation while also creating many risks:
With more frequent app releases and a rise in app instances coming together in IT departments, technology teams are deploying new apps and services on an almost continual basis. The operational benefits associated with this trend include:
- Apps are moved into production quickly, maximizing their ability to create value by solving operational problems fast and as they happen
- Creates a culture of consistent, iterative innovation
- Automates many processes to accelerate release operations
- Helps IT teams become responsive enough to support consumerization.
- Deals with flaws in code by making flaws easier to identify as apps are updated on a frequent basis with smaller batches of code.
Continuous integration presents organizations with a wide range of opportunities to improve IT operations, but it isn't all smooth sailing.
Having IT operations move faster than normal is only useful if you can mitigate risk along the way. Continuous integration presents a variety of challenges that need to be dealt with in order to find success. Some of these issues are:
- So many frequent changes are made that traditional approval processes struggles to keep up
- A lack of checks and balances - one small mistake can lead to disastrous results, and the usual managerial approvals are usually impossible to maintain within a continuous integration environment
- Operates at such a rapid pace that IT workers can quickly get burnt out or feel like the environment is chaotic
- Requires a drastic cultural change that many organizations are not ready to handle
Any disruption to development and release operations can create substantial risk in terms of the quality of applications and services. The stability of the configuration, security vulnerabilities and other quality assurance components are often called into question when solutions are continuously moved into production.
Reaping the benefits of continuous integration hinges on overcoming these challenges and creating an operational framework that emphasizes the benefits of the operational methodology. An ITSM tool solution can play a vital role in helping organizations overcome the dangers associated with continuous integration through a combination of automation and documentation tools that let IT get the job done at a rapid pace while mitigating the risk.
Using Change Management to Make the Most of Continuous Integration
Constantly integrating new code into the configuration can feel like an overwhelming burden, but advanced ITSM tools can be instrumental in easing any challenges that emerge. Change management stands out as particularly valuable in this area.
Traditionally, change management was built around the idea of creating checks and balances by integrating processes between IT workers, managers and the change advisory board to make sure every task was prioritized effectively and went through proper chains of approval prior to their completion. This is great from a stability perspective, but incredibly problematic when it comes to ensuring rapid operations.
Today, modern change management solutions are designed to keep that stability-focused process framework in place for situations where it is needed while also using process automation to accelerate operations in most situations. The focus here is on reactive change, or change management that captures all changes and reacts only to system crtical issues. In this situation, IT employees are freed to make changes quickly as needed, but all processes are automatically documented. If something goes wrong, IT can refer to the change log and undo past actions until the situation resolves itself. A modern change system also has the ability to track changes without hindering or slowing down adopted agile methodologies while seamlessly integrating into the DevOps toolchain. This gives IT overall better visibility without halting production.
Continuous integration may create major challenges, but change management lets you accelerate operations to streamline operations while mitigating risk.