The Five Key ''-tions'' of Enterprise Scale Continuous Delivery

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The Five Key ''-tions'' of Enterprise Scale Continuous Delivery

Learn the five key actions needed to smoothly implement continuous delivery at a large organization as a part of enterprise DevOps.

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For a large organization, implementing and successfully adopting continuous delivery (CD) within an app system is a challenging, even daunting, task. The idea of overhauling a preexisting way of working can seem like taking a leap into the dark, which often causes executives to balk at the idea. Yet, the jump is not actually that large. The technical issues are well understood and there are plenty of tools available to get a basic, functional infrastructure 'working' with a bit of effort.

However, 'working' is not enough for modern enterprises. Large organizations are concerned with higher level capabilities and operational approaches that reflect the value of the actual scale at which they exist. These companies want to maximize and exploit the advantages of their size. Enterprises that cannot take advantage of their scale will struggle as competitors and market disruptors alike seek to alter the status quo.

How does the enterprise attain and deliver on the promise of CD at scale? To answer that question, I'd like to look at an interrelated list of "-tions":


There is no escaping the fact that large enterprises are concerned with who does what. Old-school hierarchies usually think of that in terms of pushing "authority" to do something "downward." Indeed, this is the way most people think of the word 'delegation'. In organizations attempting to adopt enterprise scale continuous delivery, there is also the challenge of horizontal delegation-from one team, or silo, to another. Continuous delivery only works when long communication, decision-making, or approval-granting chains are minimized or eliminated. This can be a challenge for enterprises that are used to very bureaucratic approaches to IT. Delegating control to those closest to the work is critical if the organization is to achieve agility.


Collaboration is closely related to delegation. It is an important enabler of trust, which enhances the willingness to delegate. It also incorporates key communications channels and behaviors that let people learn, share knowledge, and generally improve the organization's ability to execute rapidly. Maintaining a rapid execution cadence is a key goal of CD and ultimately a reason enterprises are interested in it as a practice.

Large organizations, given their disparate teams, technologies, and even geographies, must deliberately invest time and effort into fostering these interactions. Merely saying people are 'empowered' is not enough-goals and incentives must be aligned within and, crucially, across organizations in the same value streams. Otherwise, team-centric interests can interfere with delivering new functionality.


Automation is the capability that makes enterprise scale continuous delivery possible. It is the backbone of a modern software factory.

Automation serves as a source of great efficiency for repetitive tasks, executing them in a consistent, fast and reliable fashion. This shifts staff time from repetitive, low-value tasks to creative efforts that bring higher business value resulting in greater productivity for the business.

Successful automation relies on clear, cross-functional understanding of the overall process and its value increases the more broadly it is used. Good collaboration is crucial to achieving the understanding required to establish and extend automation within processes-particularly those that cross team boundaries.


Being a large enterprise enables you to leverage scale and achieve higher levels of efficiency. This is achieved via shared resources and reducing duplication of effort, which can be a major management challenge for enterprises because, as we have discussed, CD pushes a lot of activities to teams. This creates pressure in the enterprise as CD practices can lead to teams duplicating facilities that other teams have created.

However, the knee-jerk reaction to deduplicate efforts may actually yield a worse outcome for the enterprise as a whole. There is mounting research that the traditional pursuit of efficiency will generally yield worse business outcomes when it comes to delivering software. That said, too much duplication will also yield negative outcomes-remember that even a high-speed tech titan like Google enforces a single code repository standard because that is how it manages its intellectual property.

Striking the correct balance requires good automation. By eliminating repetitive tasks, it can empower teams to use a central resource in a self-service manner. Knowing what is critical to maintain centrally, such as intellectual property or compliance, is a key part of intelligent delegation.


The first four "-tions" are all related to each other and there is a delicate balance required to successfully adopt CD. The fifth "-tion," Instrumentation, sits at the heart of the CD practice and enables all participants in the enterprise to contribute to its success. Instrumentation provides the trust, transparency, and communication required to maintain and improve the CD practice in a sustainable way that benefits a large enterprise.

The 5 "-tions" outlined above serve as a framework that can help focus conversation and effort around enterprise scale CD. It can be a tricky balancing act, but the research published in books such as Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations, by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim, reflects that companies that successfully adopt modern practices such as CD will substantially outperform their rivals.

Enterprises that want the benefits of DevOps practices such as CD must act deliberately. Early successes from individual teams or "grassroots" efforts are good and provide real data that such approaches are feasible. However, without a coherent framework such as these 5 "-tions," scaling the early successes across the numerous and diverse teams within an enterprise will be impossible.

automation, continuous delivery, devops, enterprise devops

Published at DZone with permission of Dan Zentgraf . See the original article here.

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