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Why do Executives need CD? Now.

As a ThoughtWorks consultant, I spend a large portion of my time helping organizations solve their challenges and realize their business goals. In the last few years I have focused on helping our clients in their attempts to introduce Continuous Delivery (CD) practices. One of the core challenges that these companies faced, was convincing senior management of the value that CD will bring to the organization.

But isn’t CD just the newest toy in town?

In some cases the management see CD as yet another developer distraction - the latest shiny object to play with that will suck up a lot of time and money and deliver minimal value. They’ve seen such initiatives in the past - “new” ways of working in order to remain competitive/ increase quality/ be able to attract the right profile of people. However, all they’ve been left with are high costs with marginal (if any) benefit.

And a bit too disruptive?

CD covers a wide surface area and can be very disruptive - removing role specific silos, creating service oriented teams, empowering teams to make their own decisions, releasing to production more frequently, increasing the level of automation, etc. Why would you want to introduce such drastic changes into a business that is doing “fine” the way it is?

However...

As companies mature and grow they have a tendency to become less agile, it takes them more time to deliver changes and more problems are discovered later in the delivery cycle. The culture of the organization changes as well, people are less concerned about the overall success of the project, and even less so about the usefulness of the product to the end users. Instead their vision becomes myopic. The company is still making money, but the various departments have become impediments to each other rather than enablers. Innovation ebbs.

The people that bring us (ThoughtWorks) into such an organization want our help to keep up with rapidly changing customer requirements and a fiercely competitive market. Usually the desire for change is driven by the need to transform the organization so it can survive in the world where customers are expecting innovative products delivered to them more frequently than ever before. CD is an essential part of the solution. However, it is important to recognize two parts of the CD adoption. The tactical part is about streamlining the IT organization, to enable it to quickly respond to business needs and to deliver a quality product. The more strategic part of CD adoption is taking this rediscovered IT capability, to rapidly push innovation to the marketplace, iterate on these ideas based on the customer feedback and ultimately create valuable products that the customers will enjoy using.

How do you get there?

In most organizations, the executives don’t need to be told that things can be better, they want to know how. They are well aware of the advancements that the competition is making and in many cases are frustrated with their organization's inability to “go faster”, deliver a high quality product, deliver on time, etc. Recently I spoke with the CEO of a rapidly growing travel comparison website, he told me that two years ago they were a company of 20 people and were able to “turn things around” in days and sometimes even hours. Now they are an organization with 150+ employees in multiple offices and even a small change request take weeks or months to implement. For me, the journey of implementing CD best practices is a journey of rediscovery. We, the organization, need to bring back the agility, passion and conviction that we’ve lost in our push to grow and expand. Implementing CD does involve deep changes from the core and across all levels, but the benefits in terms of rapid, on-demand delivery and customer satisfaction are just as tangible.

In my next blog I will detail the #1 Step: Getting buy-in from the “right” people. Stay tuned...