Continuous Integration in an Agile Environment

Agile is a fairly common phenomenon in development environments, but it can often be challenging to add continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD). Older development teams may not even know that much of going from codebase development to testing and then to production can be automated. 

Agile was created by developers who discovered that the old waterfall methodology was ineffective for modern software lifecycle management, but now deployment speed is a critical component of customer satisfaction and productivity. With the addition of CI/CD, the Agile development environment becomes much more efficient, and developers can continue quick delivery of fixes and upgrades throughout the product lifecycle, which was considerably slower before automation.

Before deploying CI/CD with Agile, it is critical to recognize that all three techniques are distinct entities that should be considered components that complement one another rather than as a complete. It is essential to understand these components separately because each can be customized and integrated to meet the organization's requirements.

The term "Agile" comes from the term "agility." It is a methodology that defines the way software is created and maintained. It replaced the old Waterfall methodology popular in the 70s and 80s. Key stakeholders established requirements in the traditional Waterfall techniques, those specs were delivered to developers, developers built the application, and the final product was presented to stakeholders. This process could take months, and any problems weren't discovered until after the job was done when development time had already been wasted. This problem created a bottleneck in the development lifecycle and cost thousands in refactoring and code changes that could have been discovered earlier in the process.

Agile changed the old waterfall methodology by allowing changes to the development process. Application development is done in parts, each of which is part of a sprint. After the sprint, code changes are added to the main database and presented to the project manager or stakeholders. They approve the code, and the next sprint begins. 

Agile has long been the favored approach for developers since it allows for problem repairs and adjustments prior to development completion, giving the entire process a greater chance of success when it is ready to go into production.

CI/CD are proprietary components that can go well with Agile. Traditionally, when fixes and updates needed to be added to the code base, developers would check the code file, make their changes, and check the file to add it to the entire code base. The developer would then have to wait for the next deployment, the next day or a month later. 

If the code modifications introduced new flaws or failed to work, they were returned to the developer. 

This procedure might take months to complete a simple bug patch.

Automation is introduced to the process using CI/CD to minimize costly mistakes in small repairs or significant code upgrades. Automation using CI/CD accelerates the process and can considerably shorten development time. Continuous integration developers still verify code, but automation is introduced to the process when tools are used to build and test developer changes immediately after the code has been reviewed, and when found defects are informed instantly.

Continuous Delivery (CD) automates the deployment process by sending code updates to the target production node using orchestration tools. Rather than waiting for an official deployment day, which is often monthly in big settings, CD automates the process and delivers new code as soon as it is tested and ready for deployment.

Using Agile with CI/CD, developers can deploy their software updates faster and reduce critical design and specification errors when presenting new changes to stakeholders. Agile methodologies define the way modern software is developed and distributed. It eliminates some of the human elements in the management and deployment of software, which reduces time and the likelihood of errors.

Combining Agile with CI/CD

Most development teams currently utilize Agile, but they tailor it to their specific requirements and interests. 

CI/CD can be simply integrated into the present process, even with a customized Agile approach. 

The key to CI/CD is to have the correct tools and procedures in place to automate it. 

Because CI/CD focuses significantly on automation, developers must figure out how to coordinate change and identify tools that fit with the environment.

Agile and CI/CD save money on developer time, manual integrations, and resources to manage them with the right approach. CI/CD adds reduced downtime to the equation. Altogether, these three methodologies can save thousands on development. Agile can accelerate growth by reducing time to market by up to 50%. CI/CD is much newer than Agile but has already proven beneficial for large and small organizations. For example, Ticketmaster has added continuous integration to their development pipeline with Jenkins and reduced the transition from code to testing from two hours to eight minutes. They were also able to deploy updates to their mobile apps faster.

Continuous Delivery (CD) also has its benefits. CI/CD is used as part of DevOps to automate app testing, deployment, and delivery. A 2019 study by Puppet found that CD:

Accelerates patch delivery 24 times faster

Reduced the failure rate for changes by one-third.

Developer time to rework and fixes were reduced by 22%.

Developers spent 50% less time fixing security problems.

Before you decide to add CI/CD to your Agile methodology, there are several aspects of managing software and its lifecycle that should not be excluded:


  • The support staff and IT infrastructure personnel will be needed to support the software and automation tools.
  • Testing, both manual and automated.
  • Agile sprint meetings and development design phase.
  • Liaison with project managers to keep stakeholders and developers informed of project changes and decisions.
  • Backlog management.
  • Security penetration testing, vulnerability analysis and remediation.

Now take this example of one code update and multiply it by the number of developers and the number of code changes they make daily. Instead of managing every change in the codebase, including bug fixes returned during QA review, automation tools eliminate the need for human intervention by speeding up the process and identifying bugs before they hit production. The developer doesn't need to interrupt the current sprint during an Agile sprint to go back to previous tasks with bug fixes. Instead, automation tools gather the source code, identify bugs, and send an email to the developer and team leader.

Adhering to Agile, CI, and CD best practices

If you opt to employ continuous integration and delivery, you will require some upfront fees as well as person-hours to put them in place. 

To ensure the seamless operation of Agile and CI/CD, developers and everyone else participating in the process must embrace the perspective that the code is evolving. 

Here are some best practices to assist teams in transition to new methodologies:

  • Automate tests throughout the day and send notifications to developers and managers if new code isn't working.
  • Have a testing environment that is an accurate (or as close as possible) mirror of the production environment where the code is being tested.
  • Consider adding an automated penetration testing solution to identify vulnerabilities before they hit production during the testing phase.
  • Keep a detailed log during the testing and production phases to help developers identify bugs.
  • Continue to assess and enhance the process by modifying setups and automated actions.
  • Measure your progress, such as the number of bug fixes, deployment time to production, and several releases produced after the automation.

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