Monday, September 19, 2016

Development teams should be deploying and mainintaining production

Most of the software development shops I've worked at in my career didn't have developers deploy their own code. Typically the developers would create a release and hand it off to QA who would do some combination of manual, automated, and performance testing. When bugs or performance issues were found they'd send the release back upstream to developers who were already working on the next feature.

This creates a culture of fear that the production system needed to be protected from the developers. This is unhealthy in my opinion. Software development teams should be deploying their own software for four main reasons:
  1. Ownership
  2. Accountability
  3. Insight
  4. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment

Software teams that deploy and maintain their own software in production tend to have a higher level of ownership. This is because they are involved in the full end-to-end software development life-cycle rather than just building the software. They become better aware of the machines (whether physical or virtual) that their software runs on. They're more likely to insist and push for deployment automation as developers tend to hate repetitive manual tasks.

When the developer isn't responsible for deploying their code they move on to the next problem space after they've "shipped" their code to operations. This typically means they've moved on both mentally and emotionally from that release. When a developer is responsible for pushing to production they're invested in the release getting all the way to customers. They become responsible for diving in and solving problems that pop up during deployment.


When you're responsible for maintaining software in production, you're more likely to be accountable to what happens in production. Specifically, the dev team becomes more accountable to:
  • Bugs
  • Test coverage
  • Deployment failures
  • Poor performing code
When you work at scale there are often bugs that only show up in production. When developers deploy to production they become more accountable for fixing bugs, performance issues, and deployment failures as they are directly exposed to them during the release cycle. One thing I've seen successful organizations do is, when a release fails, block all further releases until the deployment succeeds. Developers that are accountable for these failures will be encouraged to fix them because they're prevented from moving on to the next new thing until the current thing is successfully deployed. 


Understanding the health of your system means having the right metrics and validations in place. When software developers own deploying to production they're more likely to instrument their code well because they will need to validate that their deployments are successful. In my experience teams that deploy their own code better understand the performance characteristics and health of their systems. They are also better able to diagnose problems because they're familiar with the differences between their development and test environments and the production system.

Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment

When a team owns their code end-to-end they are setup for success with respect to continuous integration and continuous deployment. They don't have to jump through hoops in getting their code into production and they can integrate deployment and test tools directly into their development pipeline. This encourages them to ship smaller features more often. By doing this, they decrease the time it takes to close the feedback loop and are better able to adapt to their customers ever changing needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment