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Use Feature Flags in Support of Progressive Delivery


Progressive Delivery with Feature Flags

Software development is integral to all businesses, not just for producing features rapidly and reliably, but for making drastic differences in users’ lives. Impact-driven development is an approach that takes this further, honing in on the influence of each feature on the users and the business.

Consider the process of baking a cake. Rather than combining all ingredients at once hoping for a successful outcome, you’d add each ingredient incrementally, examining the taste and texture throughout. This parallels Impact-Driven Development, a method that entails a specific and planned release of features and employs real-time data to evaluate their impact.

The core concept of this approach is progressive delivery. This method involves rolling out features to certain user groups allowing for tailored releases and immediate feedback. This significantly diminishes the risk associated with feature deployment while ensuring the features make a significant and positive influence. It’s why progressive delivery is popular with product development teams, product managers, engineering managers, and DevOps teams. It also makes rollbacks easy when rollouts don’t go as planned.

Progressive delivery relies heavily on the use of feature flags. Imagine these as on/off switches for features, providing engineering teams control over when and to whom a feature is released (not to mention the ability to perform a rollback when necessary).

Feature flags are an important part of feature management and DevOps processes. They cut down on development time, reduce release risk, work well with other tools like Kubernetes, and they enable teams to concentrate on solving customer issues. Not to mention they are the basis for continuous delivery and testing in production environments.

Grasping Progressive Delivery in Software Development

Progressive Delivery: The Core Idea

Consider progressive delivery as a safety net for your software development process. This method allows for incremental feature launches, providing an opportunity to catch and rectify issues early on. Your development team can develop, test, and release each feature individually, leading to a more controlled and reliable process.

With progressive delivery, you base decisions on actual data and feedback, eliminating guesswork from software development.

Gather Feedback

Successful software development hinges on user feedback. Progressive delivery capitalizes on this by releasing features to specific user groups, allowing for real-time feedback in production environments. The users become an extension of your development team, guiding you on feature effectiveness and areas of improvement.

Moreover, testing features with user feedback reduces the risk factor. It enables you to rectify any issues before a full-scale rollout and rollback if need be, ensuring a more seamless and dependable software development process.

Utilizing Feature Flag Methodology

Feature flags, the linchpin of progressive delivery, function like light switches. They allow your team to turn features on or off at will, granting full control over feature rollouts. You determine when a feature goes live, who sees it, and when it’s updated or removed.

Feature flags provide agility to your team. If a feature underperforms, you can turn it off, adjust, and retry. Conversely, a well-performing feature can have its rollout accelerated. This control makes your software development process adaptable, responsive, and efficient.

The Impact of Feature Flags in Progressive Delivery

Creating an Agile Development Environment

Feature flags, akin to a secret weapon in development, provide control over feature activation. This control creates agility in the development environment, similar to a well-equipped kitchen where the chef manages heat, ingredients, and timing for a perfect dish.

If a new feature underperforms, you can promptly deactivate it, refine it, and relaunch it when ready. There’s no need to wait for the next development cycle or a major update. Feature flags enable you to make real-time adjustments, ensuring optimal software performance.

Reducing Deployment Risks

Releasing a flawed new feature that disrupts your entire system is a frightening prospect. Feature flags act as a safety valve, allowing you to instantly deactivate a problematic feature, curbing disruption and reducing deployment risks, an important part of any deployment strategy.

You can also utilize feature flags for controlled rollouts. You can release a feature to a small user group first, collect feedback, make changes, and then expand the rollout. This strategy turns your users into an extended quality assurance team, helping you identify issues before they affect the broader user base.

Additionally, you can use feature flags to help with canary deployments and canary releases by allowing for the gradual rollout of new features to a small subset of users, enabling monitoring and testing before releasing to everyone. Using feature flags in canary deployments further assists your progressive delivery goals.

Improving User Experience

Feature flags allow you to customize the user experience. You can release features to specific user groups, tailoring experiences based on their needs and preferences. A satisfied user is a loyal user.

Moreover, feature flags enable you to test multiple variations of a feature to determine the most effective version. By continually refining and optimizing, you ensure the best possible user experience.

Supporting Continuous Delivery

In software development, stagnation is regression. Continuous delivery, continuous deployment, and continuous integration are facilitated by feature flags, enabling immediate release, adjustment, and improvement of features. The idea is to keep your software always evolving and improving.

Feature flags provide the freedom to experiment and a/b test without the fear of failure and to innovate without the risk of disruption. In a dynamic and rapidly changing environment, this flexibility is a competitive advantage you can’t overlook.

Enhancing the Stability and Flexibility of Blue/Green Deployments

Progressive delivery with feature flags can eliminate the need for duplicate environments. However, if you need to accomplish a big bang release and prefer a blue/green approach, then feature flags still add value to your workflow by allowing you to do trunk-based development before your new version is go for launch. Feature Flags let you turn off a subset of your blue/green release to see if a small portion of it is causing issues. Then, when you think you’re finished, you are free to follow through with your blue/green deployment confidently, ensuring stability and flexibility in the process.

Benefits of Impact-Driven Development in Progressive Delivery

Progressive delivery and Impact-driven development can significantly enhance software development. Let’s discuss the primary benefits of this approach.

Optimizing Feature Value and Impact

This method allows for the optimization of each feature’s value and impact. Using real-time data, you can measure and adjust the influence of each feature. This ensures that each feature genuinely serves the user’s needs and contributes positively to the organization. The goal is to make a user-focused development process that puts the impact of each feature first.

This also conserves time and resources, allowing investment only in features that resonate with users and align with organizational goals. All of this is strategic and calculated to foster growth.

Boosting Speed and Reliability

The speed and reliability of feature rollouts are another primary benefit. With feature flags, teams can regulate the release of a feature, customize its visibility, and adjust it based on user feedback. This gives control over the software development process.

This method also supports faster development cycles. By reducing the risk of feature deployment and enabling real-time adjustments, development processes can be expedited without compromising quality. It strikes the perfect balance between speed and reliability.

Embracing Impact-Driven Development and progressive delivery can truly elevate your software development process. This approach focuses on the impact of each feature and allows for swift, reliable rollouts, leading to a more efficient and user-focused development process. It’s about creating software that functions well and makes a real difference to users and the organization.

Significantly Reduce Downtime

Using feature flags in progressive delivery can significantly reduce downtime during software deployments. By gradually rolling out new features or updates to a subset of users, issues that may arise can be addressed before impacting a larger audience. If any problems occur, the deployment can be easily rolled back without affecting all users. This allows for a more controlled and seamless deployment process, minimizing downtime and ensuring a better user experience.

Effective A/B Testing

Using impact-driven development for progressive delivery can greatly benefit your A/B testing efforts and testing between new versions and old ones. By prioritizing features and variations based on their potential impact, you can focus your resources on implementing changes that are most likely to drive meaningful metrics in production environments. This approach allows you to optimize your software delivery workflow by ensuring that the features being tested have a high likelihood of positively influencing the entire user base. Impact-driven development aligns A/B testing with your overall delivery process, enabling you to make data-driven decisions and iterate more efficiently toward achieving desired outcomes.

Take the Step Towards Impact-Driven Development Now!

No more guessing games with your software development. Shape your strategy with Impact-Driven Development and progressive delivery. Use real-time data to adopt a streamlined process, control feature rollouts, reduce risks, and, most importantly, enhance users’ experiences. Make more than just deliveries – shape differences.

Our Feature Data Platform provides you with a toolkit to start. With feature flags that continuously measure impact, you can build an environment that adapts to changing needs within your software development process. Accelerate your development cycles without sacrificing quality, and direct user-focused solutions that add value.

Adopt this new approach to product building, made possible with progressive delivery from Split and redefine your software development methods.

Switch It On With Split

The Split Feature Data Platform™ gives you the confidence to move fast without breaking things. Set up feature flags and safely deploy to production, controlling who sees which features and when. Connect every flag to contextual data, so you can know if your features are making things better or worse and act without hesitation. Effortlessly conduct feature experiments like A/B tests without slowing down. Whether you’re looking to increase your releases, to decrease your MTTR, or to ignite your dev team without burning them out–Split is both a feature management platform and partnership to revolutionize the way the work gets done. Schedule a demo to learn more.

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