Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software

In November 2011, Dave West argued that “Water-Scrum-Fall is the reality of Agile for most organisations today“. Dave suggested that in many Agile organisations the Agile process in Development (“Scrum”) is constrained by culture and governance in both Business (“Water”) and Operations (“Fall”), and that such an organisation “fails to realise Agile’s business benefits, such as faster time-to-market, increased business value, and improved flexibility and responsiveness“. This can be summarised as:

Agile has transformed software development, but not product development

By definition, software can only generate revenue when it is in Production. However, Dave Farley and Jez Humble assert in Continuous Delivery that such common sense is not common practice in the software industry, saying that “in most organisations the release of software into Production is a manually intensive, error-prone, and risky process“. The high-cost, high-risk nature of this scenario is the root cause of the low frequency release policy so common in the industry, where stability is favoured over flexibility.

Dave F and Jez go on to argue that such a release policy is inherently expensive, stating that “every week of delay between having an idea and releasing the code that implements it can represent millions of dollars in opportunity costs“. The elapsed time between feature inception and feature delivery is the cycle time of an organisation, and by establishing a regular cadence of Production releases we can reduce cycle time and as a consequence dramatically improve throughput.

Enter Continuous Delivery, which is defined as “releasing high quality software fast through build, test and deployment automation“, and has been adopted by organisations such as FacebookLMAX, and TheTrainLine to create reliable, repeatable, low-cost delivery mechanisms that release software to Production on a weekly or even daily basis. Such significant reductions in cycle time mean that more time can be invested back into product development and revenue growth, while the reduction in batch size provides faster feedback and reduces risk.

This is the value proposition of Continuous Delivery – firstly, “that we now have the tools, patterns and practices to drive down the transaction cost of releasing a change enormously“, and secondly that by fostering closer Development/Operations partnerships (such as DevOps) the artificial boundaries within “Water-Scrum-Fall” organisations can be dismantled.