They worked hard and they reaped the rewards. Everything continued well for a while until the day when they had an important set of changes to meet a regulatory requirement. Everyone agreed that this had to be done and that teams were stretched. Both things were very important for different reasons – one had to be done but didn’t offer any advantage or benefit to the customer. The other offered lots of features many of their customers were asking for.
They could do one or the other “properly”, but both were really important… They’d proven this new way of working worked and everyone was bought into it. Could perhaps an exception be made just this once? Could we just develop both of them and have a light touch around unit testing and automated test coverage…? It would just be this once, and yep – everyone understood we’d accumulate technical debt – but it would just be this once. As soon as it was released, everyone could “shore it up” putting everything back in place and then move forward as before.
They did. They never recovered. It was the start of a steady decline. The builds were broken. The test coverage wasn’t there to give them the confidence all was well. They started to put more emphasis on exploratory testing – using it as a substitute for test automation. Confidence in the whole process eroded quickly… Confidence is a tricky thing. It takes a long time to build and no time at all to destroy.
This isn’t an isolated incident… We’ve come across a number of examples over the years where organisations have tried to embrace DevOps, starting with build and unit test automation, progressing through test automation and through to automated deployment. More often than not – the failure at any of these stages isn’t in implementing it – it’s in keeping it going.
How then do you prevent this? How do you hold the line, keep the focus and maintain the discipline? In our experience, the key is in having a zero-tolerance approach to deviation from the process, no corners cut, no technical debt accumulated. If you slip once, you’ll do it again – and each time you do, the path back becomes harder.