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Evolve or Die: Agile & Continuous Delivery By @XebiaLabs | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

Continuous Delivery and Change Management are on a collision course

Evolve or Die: What Agile and Continuous Delivery Mean for Change Management

Change Management was designed to cater for "big bang" software changes with enormous risk, as a means of preventing disaster by exhaustive review. Modern software development has moved on. Continuous Delivery and Agile aren't just speeding up software delivery, they're also improving the quality of software. The speed of Continuous Delivery (CD) makes it fundamentally incompatible with traditional Change Management (CM).

This town ain't big enough for the both of them.

How does CM benefit you?
When you stop to think about it, CM simply isn't a good fit for modern software delivery. Even the value it adds to today's organizations is questionable. If it worked, then you'd never encounter any production problems at all. What it usually does is allow blame to be assigned when something does go wrong.

There's an assumption that human input and review in the CM process is a key added value, but in how many cases is that actually true? How much of your CM checklist could actually be automated and assimilated into your CD pipeline? That way you're boosting efficiency and keeping your checks in place. CM is largely bureaucratic overhead that slows down your development and has a real cost in terms of resources.

As the software development process shifts towards Agile and more frequent, iterative updates it makes far more sense to build your checks into your delivery pipeline and automate them. CM was created to deal with big disruptive changes with high stakes, now that the risk to reward ratio has shifted it has become cumbersome. The majority of businesses will get more value out of a reliable delivery pipeline and a robust, automated rollback procedure to deal with failures than form a thick layer of bureaucracy that is often unable to prevent them.

Enabling the transformation
What does this mean for Change Management? Does the transition need to be a highly disruptive change? Not at all. Change managers could be uniquely well-placed to drive the adoption of CD. Their specialized knowledge of dependencies and how components fit together could be employed to create solid plans for your CD pipeline. Pair them with a build or release engineer and automate your checklists.

Spark the transition from checklist-maintaining gatekeepers to supervisors of your CD pipeline and empower them to drive the new processes forward. By putting them in the driver's seat you can incorporate the human insight element that many people point to as the major benefit of CM into your pipeline design. By automating the checklists you remove the burdens of box-ticking and free them up to offer useful insights and focus on improving your end-to-end process of delivering high-quality features.

A successful CD implementation requires a champion to reduce disruption, analyze what's required, and define a process that will work. There's also a great deal of mediation to be done between the business and the IT department. Change managers could be the perfect fit.

Make a change
As it stands, CM simply does not justify the time and expense involved. Endless reviews and committee meetings with their attendant spreadsheet checklists are an antiquated approach  that no longer aligns with modern software development and delivery.

The ability to realize good ideas quickly and accommodate feedback to improve your product is the path to success. If they're willing to change, then change managers can play a valuable part in maintaining the "go live" confidence level in your CD pipeline.

More Stories By Andrew Phillips

Andrew Phillips heads up product management at XebiaLabs. He is an evangelist and thought leader in the DevOps, Cloud and Continuous Delivery space. He sits on the management team and drives product direction, positioning and planning.

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