How CI/CD helps digital organisations

Developments in technology have transformed IT management practices. We discuss the management implications of using CI/CD to drive digitisation initiatives

ITIL sees digital transformation as an approach that leads organisations to using digital technology to enable a significant improvement in the realisation of business objectives that could not feasibly have been achieved by non-digital means.

Digital transformation of a business involves significant organisational changes, review of the role of IT teams in the organisation, changes in business planning, and other aspects. However, the main trigger, and the key element of the transformation, is the development of technology, including cloud computing, digitised infrastructure, machine learning and others.

After a period of IT commoditisation, when business leaders ceased to expect competitive advantages from IT, there is now a new wave of tech-based business transformation, and this time it is digital.

New technology requires new ways of IT management. There are multiple movements in this area, with organisations adopting new approaches to the management of work, organisational structures, competences and quality. One of these approaches is known as CI/CD, where CI stands for continuous integration, and CD refers to continuous deployment and/or continuous delivery.

These are descriptive terms for a collection of practices primarily associated with software engineering. The adoption of these practices has grown rapidly, as they are now applied not only to applications, but also to digital infrastructure solutions:

Continuous integration is an approach to integrating, building and testing code within the software development environment.
Continuous delivery means that built software can be released to production at any time. What has been developed is available for the live environment and can be deployed when the organisation finds it useful.
Continuous deployment goes further – changes go through the pipeline and are automatically put into the production environment, enabling multiple production deployments per day. Continuous deployment relies on continuous delivery.
This pipeline, combined with other techniques, helps to ensure uninterrupted flow of changes to the production environment, which in turn enables fast implementation of new product and service features – and new opportunities for the business.

One of the typical complaints we heard from businesses a few years ago was that it took ages for IT to implement new features, which led to lost opportunities and revenue. In a digitally enabled organisation, this is not a problem – business ideas can be implemented in digital products and services in days, not months. And CI/CD is one of the critical tools that IT managers use to make it possible. It contributes to fast development and, because the deployments are more reliable, resilient operations.

It is important to remember that CI/CD on its own is not enough. It provides a technical enabler for a wider organisational solution, which includes lean and agile principles, software development and management techniques, product management methods and so on.

The management of digital products is different from the management of old-school IT systems. And even more importantly, in a modern organisation, it is not a sole IT team’s responsibility – digital products are effective only when technology and business expertise is united and applied throughout the product and service lifecycle.

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