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Deployment planning: Eight pillars for success

(Image credit: Image Credit: B-lay)

When it comes to software projects, the key for them to be successfully carried out is if the deployment goes well. So it’s not hard to believe that getting the process right in the deployment planning stage will prevent IT teams from making mistakes and getting it right the first time round.

Before you start deployment planning, having a well thought-out checklist that clearly highlights the tasks is absolutely critical. It doesn’t matter whether the project is a small update or a large rollout. If the migration or deployment goes wrong, it can impact the entire project - or even worse, have wider repercussions such as the application crashing or not allowing the user to carry out work which is time sensitive. Checklists are just a simple way of getting things done right, even in deployment planning, which can get somewhat complicated. Here are eight pillars for successful deployment when it comes to your software release projects that every business should adhere to.

Development and operations must join forces

If you want a smooth deployment planning journey, then the development and operation teams must cooperate and work together. It’s important for the operations team to be aware of and understand every important aspect of development. Only then can you ensure that all of those involved in the project, as well as the company, are on the same page.

If your organisation isn’t already practicing DevOps, you should at least take a leaf out of the DevOps playbook. In DevOps, both development and operation teams work side by side and are aware of what’s taking place. That’s not where the job ends though; both teams must also know when a particular task is in flight. Bearing in mind these practices, this should also give them an idea of the expected outcomes. For example, by following this approach and being involved from the very beginning, both teams will be mindful of early warning signs of any issues. They can then carry out the appropriate troubleshooting measures to resolve them.

Regularly test deployment

For a product to live up to expectations, testing a build by all means possible is absolutely vital. It also enables teams to perform testing once again just before deployment. Continuous testing allows teams to ensure no bugs slip through the cracks. By testing the new code on different environments and test versions of hardware, it significantly reduces the chance of defects being detected at the end of the deployment.

Strategy is key to develop a release

If you want to get the job done, then there needs to be an effective strategy in place. Before starting deployment, ask yourself and the team the following questions:

  • If you want to get the job done, then there needs to be an effective strategy in place. Before starting deployment, ask yourself and the team the following questions:
  • Do users need to manually update something or can they make any changes from their side?

The release team needs to know the answers to these questions so they have the same mindset when it comes to deployment. In addition to this, it also helps to implement parallel operations. Once you have the answers to these questions, this will allow the team to devise an effective strategy.

Limit changes and have a backup plan

If an application is misbehaving and not following the standard pattern, then it’s usually because of a vast number of sudden changes taking place. While in an ideal world it would be great to fix everything in one go, it’s just not practical. So, instead of throwing every change you plan to make at a single updated version, make small amends with each release. In doing so, it will be easier for the team to find the source of an issue.

Something else to consider: if problems take place in the live environment, then have a backup / rollback plan. This means, in the case of issues that are live, being given the option to return to the most stable product version will save a lot of hassle.

Increase automation

Deployment automation is a key part of the deployment pipeline. It reduces the likelihood of errors. Not only that, but it helps in the deployment of a few changes at a time instead of all at once. Deployment automation also supports in pushing small changes in the production environment. This allows for the developers to focus on unit testing and pushing the changes on to the master build.

Monitor software performance with KPIs

It’s important to monitor software performance such as uptime, page loading time and other factors at the surface level with key performance indicators (KPIs). Create metrics that can support in finding the efficiency of different aspects involved in a DevOps toolchain. You can also create custom KPIs that evaluate the performance of the software before and after deployment.

Ensure the team is in sync

Communication is vital. Give warnings to the team before you roll out changes, because any unexpected changes can create confusion. That way, the team can be prepared to address any confusion if the requirement arises. Before deployment takes place, make sure the team is synchronised.

Track performance after deployment

Once the app is deployed, it doesn’t stop there. It’s important to also create ways to closely track the app’s performance post-deployment. Using KPIs, the teams will be able to analyse and compare the software performance with pre-deployment metrics.

Deployment planning is essential to avoid unforeseen situations and delays. With a well-thought out deployment plan, release teams are less likely to miss out anything critical to the project. What’s also clear is that the pillars for successful deployment planning lie in this checklist. But it doesn’t stop there. Clear and concise communication with each team member is crucial to ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Jeff Keyes, VP of Product, Plutora

Jeff Keyes is the Director of Marketing at Plutora.