Ecommerce powerhouses such as Amazon, Etsy, and Alibaba have established a strong market presence by continuously delivering high-quality online services in the ever-changing market landscape. These organizations have achieved unmatched agility and performance as the key competitive differentiation by embracing DevOps-driven technical and business processes to develop their software products.
For ecommerce startups and established enterprises, the transformative DevOps approach to the software development lifecycle (SDLC) offers a range of strategic business benefits and addresses challenges that affect growth.
1. Continuous Innovation
Progressive ecommerce organizations thrive on delivering new features to the market faster than their competitors. This capability has been instrumental in bringing success and competitive edge to ecommerce giants such as Amazon and Etsy.
Organizations that follow prolonged development cycles often realize that one big perfect software release jeopardizes their ability to innovate on a continuous basis. Transformational changes are often built upon iterative and continuous improvements.
When new features and functionality are not introduced to customers fast enough, organizations fail to receive real-world feedback that supports innovation and addresses new market challenges on a continuous basis. As a result, the ecommerce platform remains inconsistent with the fast-evolving customer needs and fails to establish a robust presence in the online world.
Consider the traditional SDLC approach visualized below:
From ecommerce solution development to its deployment and release, every process is placed in a queue. The sequential SDLC approach means that a prior phase needs to be completed before proceeding to the next one. Since a continuous feedback loop doesn’t connect Devs, Ops, and QA specialists, accurate technical and business requirements must be defined upfront. In the real world, that’s equivalent to the impossible task of predicting the ever-evolving future scenario with complete accuracy. The SDLC approach doesn’t account for ongoing changes or facilitate cross-functional collaboration between Devs, Ops, and QA.
How’s that a problem for ecommerce companies? Market trends evolve rapidly and with minimal predictability or upfront warning signals. Growing market competition means that consumers don’t wait for ecommerce platforms to get it right – they switch to alternatives better capable of delivering new features as demands arise.
This is exactly the goal of DevOps. Consider the DevOps approach that connects every phase of the SDLC:
The fast, iterative, and agile development process focuses on faster delivery of new product features with low complexity to manage. The changes are entirely responsive to market needs – this is especially critical for ecommerce companies struggling to find the right direction in a prevalent midst of uncertainty.
Cross-pollination and collaborative efforts between Devs, Ops, and QA ensure that intra-team dependencies don’t bottleneck performance and the pace of releasing new software iterations to end users. Potential bugs and issues are identified early during the lifecycle, reducing technical debt, production delays, and impact on customers. The lean and agile DevOps approach not only enhances the efficiency of product development but also serves as a vehicle to enhance customer experience through ongoing improvements in the ecommerce platform.
2. Smart Automation
The concept of continuous-everything – Continuous Integration, Testing, Deployment, Delivery, and Release – promises unprecedented value potential for ecommerce businesses. Organizations competing for a strong online presence and amid rapidly changing market dynamics of the cyber world must adapt their products and services accordingly. A timely release of new features could be critical to attracting the attention of customers before they seek alternatives. Ongoing SDLC tasks should, therefore, run at the pace of DevOps.
Traditional manual processes undermine the efficacy of the DevOps methodology. Manual and non-repeatable configurations, maintenance, and other infrastructure operations can bottleneck performance and cause unforeseen flaws that remain undetected before it’s too late.
Automation is critical to DevOps success but, at the same time, organizations should recognize that there’s more to DevOps than automating everything. The purpose of automation in DevOps is to establish consistent builds in stable environments. Organizations can deploy next-generation automated configuration management solutions, but without overreaching visibility into legacy technologies and processes, for instance, systems are not likely to perform as intended. Essentially, organizations should know what to automate and what not to automate in context of their technical and business requirements.
Ecommerce companies that excel in these areas realize unprecedented business benefits while also experiencing improvements within the organization. For instance, automation done right will reduce the workload on Dev and QA teams, improve cross-functional collaboration between Devs and Ops, align product development with business strategies, reduce costs, and improve service reliability. Automation can provide frameworks for ecommerce businesses to follow a systematic approach to replace waste processes with faster, agile and DevOps-enabled software release cycles. However, organizations must also understand that automation in DevOps is more than just Infrastructure as a Code – it’s about knowing what, when and how much to automate in the right way.
3. Cultural Shift
DevOps implementation can have as many variations as organizations that adopt the practice – every ecommerce company can have their own approach to DevOps. The SDLC methodology isn’t all about the tooling – it’s also about people and processes, which function according to organizational cultures. If the organizational culture facilitates collaboration, and individuals embrace shared outcomes instead of merely “tossing the code over the wall” when their job is done, the DevOps culture of shared responsibility will thrive. In an ideal DevOps world, organizational teams see no silos and operate autonomously. Automation and tooling are used to incorporate continuous improvements through cross-functional collaboration and feedback. Defects are identified faster as Devs work closely with QA, and the product is developed in line with market needs through ongoing collaboration.
For ecommerce organizations, these changes lead to a rich and functional online end-user experience that encourages customers to find the right products and make the purchases conveniently. The website is developed from the ground up to boast high-performance capabilities as the business, product catalog, traffic, and features scale exponentially.
Since ecommerce market dynamics are in a continuous state of evolution, ecommerce organizations must align product development and technology goals with the business objectives. If a high-performance online service feature is not useful to end users, the organization must innovate with agility and velocity to meet customer demands more effectively.
The DevOps approach of continuous innovation through smart automation practices and cultural shift empowers ecommerce companies to achieve these goals and make the most out of the changing online business landscape.