Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No fluff, just releases into production every 2 weeks

My current project is a small Ruby on Rails application which is part of a larger web portal. The fun part is that we are releasing new features into production every 2 weeks. Each new feature adds a lot of business value to end users as well as the business stakeholders.

The business we cater to is evolving at a fast pace, and as an IT team, this quicker delivery service provides them a  lot of flexibility. The dynamic nature of business means that we never have requirements which are frozen, even for a period of 2 weeks. This also means that the IT team needs to respond to the changing requirements very quickly.

An important practice that has helped us, is to deploy into an exact production replica UAT environment 3-4 times a day so that the latest application is always available for the business to provide feedback. The business is exactly in the same situation as Jeff Patton describes here http://www.agileproductdesign.com/blog/dont_know_what_i_want.html by not knowing exactly what they want, and the rapid feedback cycle on the latest developed application allows us to build the feature right for them.

Most of our deployment scripts to UAT and Production are automated to an extent that it is a one click deployment to production. Not only does it make deployment simple, but also rollback simpler in case of an unexpected error.

We are still managing without creating a production branch. Having a production quality application in the UAT environment almost everyday helps us in applying an urgent bug fix if required and deploying it to production the very next day. Having a good version control like Mercurial is useful to keep half done stories outside the production build in such cases.

Lastly we do not spend time doing estimation on stories. We tend to keep the backlog to a minimum and try to move almost all the stories in progress to production every 2 weeks.

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