DevOps challenges every B2B SaaS must overcome to succeed: Productivity through CI/CD

  • March 25, 2021

Managing B2B Software As A Service (SaaS) products has never been faster or easier. But organizations working with big brands or regulated industries may still be navigating various challenges to do so properly.

One of those challenges is most likely productivity. If an organization’s productivity is consistently not up to par, the software pipelines may be to blame. The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) methodology helps address these problems, as it encourages accelerating and streamlining the process via automated pipelines and Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, better known as CI/CD. By integrating these philosophies into the development process, organizations reduce the time it takes to implement changes, test changes early and often, and increase productivity.

Impact

Productivity can have a massive impact on a business. Getting a great product to market in a timely fashion is critical. Testing software can take time, and doing it manually can slow this process down, delaying time-to-market and impairing revenue potential.

Once a product does make it to market, it must be reliable and up-to-date. Keeping SaaS products updated requires constant innovation; innovation that must be achieved and deployed as quickly as possible. Without innovation, a product may not be able to integrate with other technologies or may present additional problems and delays for customers. Furthermore, an organization must have a good Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR) so that clients know that the company will respond quickly to bugs or other problems. A company also should address any security issues and disclose software vulnerabilities promptly. A strong feedback loop between a company and its clients increases customer satisfaction.

These issues are often addressed manually. Again, this slows down the development workflow and could harm the business relationship. Pipeline automation prevents these negative consequences by enforcing processes to improve the quality of releases and security, reducing the impact of bugs.

An automated pipeline has many advantages and can improve your software development process in several key ways, including:

  • Reducing the manual steps to deploy
  • Allowing for metrics
  • Reducing the effort to deploy (and subsequently rollback)
  • Reducing developer complexity
  • Providing version control, tracking, and tracing

Pipeline Must-Haves

Automation

Fully automating all pipelines is the first task in improving productivity. It may be tempting to use some manual control or manual gates, but this should only be used at an approval stage.

Stages

The stages that must be in the pipeline are:

  • Build
  • Package
  • Test
  • Deploy

And the entire pipeline should have the following “substeps” within the testing step: fail fast stages, security scans, code coverage, static analysis, syntax analysis, functional (e2e) tests, and performance.

Metrics

Tracking metrics in the software development pipeline will help determine the productivity of the development team. Metrics developed by the DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) team at Google include:

  • Deployment frequency
  • Lead time for changes
  • Change failure rate
  • Time to restore a service

Other metrics that you may want to look at are the incident rate, rollback rate, cycle time, availability, and feature velocity.

Representative Local Environments

Developers should first test in their own local environments, followed by testing in an automated CI environment. The command used to run a piece of code in a developer’s local environment should be the same one used in the CI environment. This allows the development team to find bugs early and more effectively.

Application and Infrastructure As Code

When developing a SaaS application using CI/CD methods, application software is not the only code that must be in the pipeline. The same is needed for Infrastructure as Code (IaC). The IaC must be appropriately organized, using modules, which must be “unit tested” as any software library. The deployments of IaC must be automated in the pipeline also.

Security and Compliance

While security and compliance are two different entities, a CI/CD pipeline can automate security reviews, helping an organization make better-informed decisions about what data and code go into the different environments. Automating this process also ensures that an organization can stay compliant while developing. It will also help a development team stay productive by minimizing the time spent on security and compliance issues.

Conclusion

Increasing a development team’s productivity has countless benefits, ranging from a faster time to market to increased customer satisfaction. A SDLC framework and, more specifically, CI/CD and an automated pipeline, are some of the best ways to do so. Integrating these frameworks and tools properly takes time, effort, and expertise. Once this is achieved, however, improvements will resonate throughout the organization.