CI/CD Implementation: 5 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

CI/CD Implementation Introduction:

In the technology industry, you may have noticed a shift in software development methodologies towards process automation and DevOps practices.
According to the 2020 DevOps Trends Survey , 99% of companies using DevOps and implementing CI/CD pipelines have achieved significant improvements, such as faster release cycles and higher software quality. However, according to the same report, 85% of teams have difficulty implementing DevOps practices early on.
About four years ago, our team started moving to a CI/CD approach. Currently, we have benefited from teamwork and continuous improvement of business outcomes, but in the beginning, like most teams, we faced setbacks and roadblocks that made us wonder if CI/CD was needed.
Today, we have overcome these difficulties and successfully use CI/CD in most projects. Based on past experience, let's explore the benefits of this approach, along with the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

CI/CD Implementation.Why move to CI/CD?>

The CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) approach is based on short and rapid iterations to minimize errors, speed up the development process and improve product quality.
The infographic below shows how the CI/CD pipeline works.

1.The reliability of the process is increased as the human element is reduced and the validation phase is automated.
2.Support for releasing small pieces of functionality enables teams to release the important stuff first.
3.Less stress on QA teams with frequent releases.
4.Reduce the complexity of publishing across teams within the same project. Automation helps avoid potential conflicts in the work of multiple teams and provides tools when conflicts arise.
5.Improve repost security.
6.Increase the visibility of any issues that arise during the publishing process, and automatically notify the right people at the right time.
Next, let's talk about some of the issues that software engineering teams may face when implementing a CI/CD pipeline.

5 mistakes of using CI/CD and how to avoid them
Despite its advantages, CI/CD is a rather complex multi-step process. Each of these steps can present difficulties and obstacles. Here are the top five most common mistakes teams migrating to CI/CD encounter.

1. Build CD on unstable CI
To build CD, you need to have a solid CI stream that already exists in the project. In this way, you will ensure:
•Each release unit does not destroy system performance;
•The process of building an application is very automated and repeatable (i.e. rebuilding the same code will result in the exact same result).
If you are unsure of these points, be prepared for failures, such as interruptions in the CD process, etc.
How to avoid it: Make sure all stages of the CI process are implemented and the team has confidence in the outcome of the CI work. For example, code that compiles and passes tests.

2. CI/CD Implementation.High costs and potential risks from automation

When automating a process, it is critical to consider the ratio of the cost of automation to the benefit that will be gained.
Let's see an example:
We have a project that releases updated versions every two weeks. To automate it, it took the QA team two months to write automated tests (manual tests that took no more than four hours). Clearly, such an automated process has a low rate of return.
Conversely, if the team's goal is to continually work on reducing code delivery time, CD can significantly save the QA team's time and guarantee increased application reliability.
How to avoid it: Before we start implementing CI/CD, we need to carefully analyze the benefits and costs of automation.
Here are some questions to help you evaluate:
1.How often does this process repeat?
2.How long does it take?
3.How much manpower and resources are required?
4.Can a lack of automation cause processes to go wrong?
5.Why does this process need to be automated now?
Based on the answers, determine how urgently this process needs to be automated, and if it needs to be automated.
If the project does not currently require a full CI/CD process, it is important to consider the possibility of implementing CI/CD iteratively, but automation of various stages will help solve pressing problems. Also, you can automate only part of the product: for example, implementing CI/CD on the backend without involving the mobile app.

3. Equating Continuous Deployment with Continuous Delivery
Continuous deployment is where any changes in the codebase should be put into production automatically and quickly.
On the basis of continuous integration, continuous delivery deploys the integrated code to a "production-like environment" that is closer to the real operating environment. For example, after we have finished unit testing, we can deploy the code to a database-connected Staging environment for more tests. If there is no problem with the code, you can continue to manually deploy to the production environment.
Continuous deployment is the next step in continuous delivery, where code is reviewed and automatically deployed to production. Its purpose is that it can be deployed at any time and put into production quickly. This step of continuous deployment means that the product meets the audience, but it has to pass many tests, tests, builds, deployments and other steps, and each step is automatic.
Continuous Deployment is a standalone mechanism, an add-on to Continuous Delivery, and does not replace it. When implementing a CI/CD process, think of continuous deployment as a separate feature that may or may not be needed in each particular project.
How to avoid it: If you decide to use continuous deployment, prepare your project ahead of time to avoid impacting the user experience. A feature flag approach can be used when an app update is hidden from users but still visible to the product team, so you can turn it on and off for certain groups of users at the right time.

4. CI/CD Implementation.Unreliable test systems

Solid testing is the foundation of CI/CD. They guarantee that the code works correctly and allow you to further the release process. Without trust in automated testing, teams either need a lot of repetitive manual testing work (which devalues automated testing efforts) or face a lot of bugs in production (which directly harms the product).
How to avoid it: Make sure the test system you use is reliable enough. Check that they meet two key requirements:
1.Test cases fully cover all functions: all application modules and all major processes are covered by tests.
2.The results of each individual test are credible: the test doesn't crash on its own, and if the test passes, then that part of the functionality is really tested.

5. CI/CD Implementation.Lack of meaningful dashboards and metrics

Sometimes agile teams don't track important metrics at all and spend a lot of time recording metrics that don't do any good.
Although Agile and CI/CD have different goals, they should help each other. Both methods are based on the practice of continuous improvement. The easiest way to achieve it is to cover all processes nicely with metrics and dashboards. Teams must be able to see and track the current status to identify issues in a timely manner.
Also, any issues should be detected and resolved early. The same applies to agile and CI/CD. For example, teams working on SCRUM need to understand their performance and consumption rates, as well as their delivery times, to see possible bottlenecks in the release process. Without this understanding, the team won't know which part of the system isn't working and therefore won't focus on improving.
How to avoid it: Set metrics for your CI/CD process, set up processes so teams can see any issues and respond proactively.

CI/CD is a proven way to help teams be more productive while improving product quality and release velocity. Nonetheless, only when the process is properly structured can it bring measurable results. Not only can CI/CD tools have positive effects, but team culture changes can also help.

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