3 Cornerstones of Efficient Software Teams

For a small software business or startup, resources are often tight. When starting out, you’re trying to get a product off the ground and may consider cutting corners when it comes to quality or development processes. Servers are usually set up once with a variety of commands and configurations that may not be well documented. The software delivery process starts out pretty ad-hoc… until you need to scale. You have a server backup, sure – but how long would it take you to restore everything to the way it was?

Building scalable, repeatable, and automated processes makes your team more efficient and reduces the occurrence of external outages. Read on to learn our top three tips for automating your software development and deployment cycles.

Deployment Pipelines

The first area to automate is your software deployment and delivery pipeline. The stability and availability of your product to the customer are of utmost importance. More uptime means less time dealing with unhappy customers and fighting server-room emergencies. According to PWC, “a defect identified after software has gone live can cost 100 times more to to fix than if it were found in earlier stages.” Automating your deployments and quality assurance processes prevents these types of crises from occurring in the future.

Consider your current development pipeline. When your developers finish working on a piece of code, what happens next? Do they test things on their laptops, then push the code to a production server? Do they send it through a QA team?

In today’s modern world, there are often many different servers, environments, and pieces of software working in tandem with one another. It’s not as easy as just copy and pasting new files. There are many steps in software deployment, and many of them are carried out manually. Tasks such as clearing the cache, uploading new files, running configuration scripts, or stopping and starting services can be done by the tester or engineer – but what if they forget a step? What if someone new needs to replicate the process? Unless every command is written down step-by-step, it can be hard to replicate, and there’s always room for human error.

Automating the deployment pipeline helps your developers get code from their laptops to test and production servers faster, cutting down on tedious manual processes and potential error.

Deployment Pipeline

Here is an example of what an automated deployment process might look like. Many steps and repeated tasks can be condensed into scripts or configured with the help of tools such as Jenkins, Ansible, or Travis CI. The leading infrastructure automation company Chef provides multiple resources for companies to learn automation and DevOps best practices.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is essential for every software team, but it can be implemented in several different ways. Manual QA usually involves testers checking the functionality of each feature and reporting any bugs or compatibility issues. This can cover a lot of obvious use cases and is especially useful for complex use cases that are harder to automate. But what if the customer reaches a state that you didn’t test?

This is where automated testing comes in. Writing automated test cases to ensure that every feature works and doesn’t break existing code may take more time at first, but as the below infographic shows, it saves time and resources in the long run. Because an automated test only needs to be written once and can then be run any number of times, quality assurance professionals can test a wider variety of features and ensure more of the code base is covered.

Test Automation

Resource Scaling

Small companies often start out by running their software on one small server or cloud service. But what if that server goes down or becomes overloaded? No one wants to sit around and manually monitor resource usage, but how can you scale quickly without overpaying?

Scaling is one of the most critical problems facing small companies and startups, and trying to handle resource scaling and DevOps manually is a recipe for disaster. Automating your resource scaling ensures that your service is up 100% of the time and that you aren’t paying more for it than you need to. Products like Amazon Web Services allow you to pay only for what you’re using, and you can easily upgrade to a more robust instance if needed. To streamline this even further, Amazon offers an Auto Scaling service where you can designate a group of instances and rules for when to add or remove capacity in that group.

Auto Scaling

Auto-scaling, along with Amazon’s Elastic Load Balancer, will keep your application up and running smoothly without launching more instances than you need.

A Robust Enterprise

Manual tasks will always be necessary, but the tools and services mentioned here have become an industry standard to simplify and document repetitive tasks. Embrace automation as a friend rather than a foe in your company, and the results will speak for themselves.

By implementing these DevOps and automation processes at your company, you will be well on your way to creating a more robust, efficient team. While automation and DevOps best practices do have extra costs up front, they reduce long-term costs and outages while increasing stability and replicability.

A recent informal survey showed that over 80% of companies do not automate all three of these processes. Be the exception by streamlining your deployment, quality assurance, and resource scaling. The time freed up by automation can then be used by your development team to build new features or reduce time to market.