On the journey to continuous deployment: Technical and social challenges along the way

By G. Claps, R. Berntsson Svensson, A. Aurum
Information and Software Technology 2015

Short summary

This research presents the results of an empirical study that examines the adoption of the Continuous Deployment (CD) process at a case company. In total, 22 (9 technical and 13 social) CD adoption-related challenges were identified. Of the 22 challenges illustrated in the Figure below, 11 have been uniquely identified by this study; 9 have been previously identified by practitioners in their publications; while only 4 of the challenges have previously been identified in academic literature. While a number of individual technical and social adoption challenges were uncovered by the case study in this research, most challenges were not faced in isolation. The severity of these challenges was reduced by a number of mitigation strategies employed by the case study organization. For example, to deliver software in small batches, the case company adopted the strategy of using ‘dark features’. When a dark feature has been fully deployed, it is activated for customers at a specific time. However, it was discovered in this research that some of the mitigation strategies had led to further challenges themselves. For example, while small batches are used to deploy software multiple times a day using CD, it was difficult to demonstrate to customers the added value of the ability to introduce new features into the software product.

Abstract

Continuous deployment (CD) is an emerging software development process with organisations such as Facebook, Microsoft, and IBM successfully implementing and using the process. The CD process aims to immediately deploy software to customers as soon as new code is developed, and can result in a number of benefits for organizations, such as: new business opportunities, reduced risk for each release, and prevent development of wasted software. There is little academic literature on the challenges organisations face when adopting the CD process, however there are many anecdotal challenges that organisations have voiced on their online blogs. The aim of this research is to examine the challenges faced by organisations when adopting CD as well as the strategies to mitigate these challenges. An explorative case study technique that involves in-depth interviews with software practitioners in an organisation that has adopted CD was conducted to identify these challenges. This study found a total of 20 technical and social adoption challenges that organisations may face when adopting the CD process. The results are discussed to gain a deeper understanding of the strategies employed by organisations to mitigate the impacts of these challenges. While a number of individual technical and social adoption challenges were uncovered by the case study in this research, most challenges were not faced in isolation. The severity of these challenges were reduced by a number of mitigation strategies employed by the case study organization. It is concluded that organisations need to be well prepared to handle technical and social adoption challenges with their existing expertise, processes and tools before adopting the CD process. For practitioners, knowing how to address the challenges an organization may face when adopting the CD process provides a level of awareness that they previously may not have had.


Bibtex
@article{Claps201521,
title = "On the journey to continuous deployment: Technical and social challenges along the way",
journal = "Information and Software Technology",
volume = "57",
number = "0",
pages = "21 - 31",
year = "2015",
doi = "http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infsof.2014.07.009",
author = "Gerry Gerard Claps and Richard Berntsson Svensson and Aybüke Aurum",
}