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This post is from the XebiaLabs blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Oct 15, 2017 — DevOps Expert

How to Unleash the Data in your DevOps Tools to Drive Continuous Improvement


Where are the weak spots in your software delivery chain? How are they affecting the value of the applications your company delivers? If you can’t answer these questions, you may be limiting revenue opportunities for your organization. That’s because for most companies today, software delivery is the key source from which their value stream flows. So, continuously improving the end-to-end delivery process must be IT's number one priority. The question is where do you start?

Maturity Models for Continuous Improvement

A quick Google search on “Agile Maturity Model” yields lots of results for how to drive continuous improvement. Some of them are based on educated guesses (but guesses nonetheless). The better ones are founded on questionnaires from a sampling of organizations, but rarely are they based on real data. These models will offer some insight in how to drive continuous improvement of your software process, but their effectiveness is limited, mainly because they're not specific to your organization. For that you need real data about your own delivery process. The good news is, if you've entered the era of continuous integration, deployment, and delivery, the data is probably already at your fingertips. You just need to know how to unleash it.

Making the Most of Your Tools

There are many widely-used tools that will help you in your journey towards a data-driven approach to continuous improvement. These tools contain charts, reports, and dashboards that can give you insight in parts of your process. For example, ServiceNow, VersionOne, and Jira provide a burndown chart, which you can use to do things like:
  • See the status of work in progress
  • Determine whether you’re on track to deliver what you promised
  • Estimate date of project completion
  • View the number of stories in the sprint stable and the same during the sprint
Below is an example of Jira Burndown Chart that shows a team with room for improvement: [caption id="attachment_16773" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Jira Burndown Chart Example of typical burndown chart available in most backlog management tools, such as Jira, ServiceNow, and VersionOne[/caption] Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery tools also provide sources of valuable data that can support your continuous improvement cycle. Github, for example, includes a nice feature that shows the distribution of languages in your code repository, which is great information if, for instance, you want to harmonize your languages. [caption id="attachment_16774" align="aligncenter" width="1994"]GitHub Language Distribution Feature Github offers a feature for showing the distribution of languages in your code repository[/caption]Jenkins offers a Stage View, which gives you insight into the status of the build process, as well as which builds are running and which have succeeded and failed—crucial data for identifying stable and unstable builds. [caption id="attachment_16776" align="aligncenter" width="607"]Jenkins' Stage View The Stage View in Jenkins provides helpful information about your build process[/caption] The above features are good sources of data and are a great first step in improving software delivery. But there’s a drawback—they provide only snippets of information, which you must piece together. There’s no overarching view that allows you to see bottlenecks across the pipeline, identify their root causes, understand how they’re impacting the delivery chain, or figure out how to prioritize them. For real continuous improvement that helps transform IT and the business, you need a holistic view of your end-to-end delivery chain. That’s the job of release pipeline orchestration.

Taking the Next Step with Release Orchestration

Release pipeline orchestration, also known as Application Release Automation (ARA), is designed to help enterprises efficiently manage and optimize their release pipelines. A true enterprise-focused release orchestration solution offers real-time visibility into release status and, through detailed reporting and analytics, allows data-driven decisions about how to continuously improve the software delivery process. Integration of tools, such as those mentioned above, is key to making it all work because that’s how you get beyond silos and take the next step into full pipeline visibility.


Release Pipeline Orchestration 

An Essential Practice for Continuous Delivery at Enterprise Scale

Learn how release pipeline orchestration solutions help even the largest of enterprises efficiently manage and optimize their software release pipelines.
XebiaLabs’ XL Release is a release orchestration tool that gives you the holistic visibility you need for ongoing improvement of your end-to-end delivery process. Its dashboards and reports provide accurate, easy-to-access insight about where and how to improve your particular delivery process. For example:
  • Value Stream Overview gives a clear view of the duration of phases and tasks per release. This data is useful for spotting bottlenecks. XL customer tip: review the Value Stream overview with your DevOps team to identify improvements. The XL Release list of top ten longest tasks will give you a big leg up here.
  • Release Duration Graphs offer valuable insight about long-term patterns of your releases. The shorter the release duration, the faster you can get value through your process. XL customer tip: reviewing these graphs with the team that maintains the pipeline will help them spot areas for improvement.
  • Release Frequency Graphs help you see whether your release frequency is increasing or not. The more frequently you release, the more often you deliver value to your customers. XL customer tip: discuss this graph with your release manager or product owner to see if you can create smaller releases with smaller features so you can ship them to your customers more quickly.

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