More on Continuous Deployment…(Followup Post)

In a previous post, I showed how continuous deployment acts like compound interest (without actually saying so). My example should have been a little more precise: I considered 2 companies-the first company (company A) released software every 6 months, while the other (company B) released software every week. The example might be more clear if you treat company A and B as the same company; company B represented the potential increase in sales value that continuous deployment afforded over a 6 month release cycle. From microeconomic supply and demand, we can say that continuous deployment has the potential to increase demand by providing incrementally greater value to the consumer; in our case, greater value acts like a price reduction.
Markets and competition introduce a number of other complexities, and Lanchester Strategy has been applied to this area, which we’ll explore a bit. Competition is zero-sum; a sale for company B is a lost sale for company A. In my previous example, for simplicity sake I assumed that company A continued to sell 100 units a month. In reality, if company A and B were each selling 100 units (a total of 200 / week), then, assuming the market continued to support 200 units / week, then company B will be selling 146 units / week at the end of week 25, which leaves only 56 units / week for company A. Now again, this is theoretical in the sense that continuous deployment gives company B the potential to achieve these results; a variety of other factors come into play to determine whether that would actually happen. However, this second sales scenario shows how quickly a company’s fortunes could change in the face of superior competition.
Lanchester strategy predicts that the winner in a given market would take around 70% market share, with everyone else fighting over the remainder. Although having 2x or more shares than your nearest competitor is nice, market winners are significantly more profitable than the raw figures would indicate. This is true for a variety of reasons. For example, the market leader has an economy of scale advantage, making it cheaper to deliver the product. Market visibility–being number one–is itself an advantage because most customers tend to follow the herd. Market leadership also makes recruiting easier. Face it…It’s good to be the King!
There is one contraindication to continuous deployment. If your customers–for whatever reason–can not or will not accommodate deployments at other than fixed (generally long) intervals. You need to make sure that your deployment tempo matches theirs so that your support personnel are in sync with your customers. In my experience dealing with this situation, it is possible to use continuous integration and bundle features into a periodic release.
Finally, to wrap up this post, I want to briefly consider the cost of continuous deployment (COCD). Personally I think that COCD is like the Cost of Quality (COQ). COQ is widely misunderstood to mean the (additional) cost to create a quality product, but it actually refers to the additional cost when a quality product isn’t produced. In other words, the processes put in place to ensure quality reduce rework and fixes, and so, they actually reduce costs. I believe that the processes put in place to support continuous deployment are like those quality processes-they actually reduce costs. Again, this is just my opinion, continuous integration reduces development costs by simplifying the integration process. It also increases quality by reducing opportunities for undetected errors that can be introduced during a large merge event. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to explore this aspect a bit more and report on what I find, but that’s it for now.

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About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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