Aftermath: software delivery now laser-focused on supporting 'contactless enterprises'

Digital transformation, DevOps and delivery mechanisms now front and center for software teams. And unexpected effect: bursts in productivity.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The Covid-19 crisis caused many issues and wreaked havoc across enterprises, but for software development teams, it led to a dramatic laser-sharp focus on what the business needs and delivering as fast as possible. For many software teams in recent months, the emphasis of their work has shifted to support for the "contactless" enterprise, with an emphasis on digital transformation, DevOps, and automation.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the word from a survey of 347 software professionals and managers, published by Accelerated Strategies Group for CloudBees, conducted in August-September. The majority of respondents, 63%, note that digital transformation objectives have significantly or somewhat increased in priority. Other priorities, including business automation (62%) and the need for investment in creating contactless services (60%) have significantly or somewhat increased. 

The Covid-19 crisis also raised a sense of importance on other priorities: 52% of respondents say they increased their focus on DevOps initiatives and 52% increased their progress on migration to cloud service providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform). "Things have happened in a few months that we didn't expect to see in a year or two or more," said Mitch Ashley, CEO of Accelerated Strategies Group and a co-author of the report. "Then we have things like contactless delivery, something we hadn't even heard of six to nine months ago."

Also worth noting is growth in companies' DevOps and Agile adoption, with 46% stating they are using cross-functional teams, 56% practicing daily stand-up meetings and 43% automating tasks. 

ASG also finds the Covid crisis has also has had an impact on software team productivity -- but in a positive direction. A majority of respondents, 59%, said their software teams are significantly or somewhat more productive than pre-pandemic. In addition, 43% of respondents said it has become somewhat easier to complete their work tasks in a timely fashion. 

At the same time, feedback concerning respondents' ability to manage unproductive distractions was mixed, the survey's authors report. While 40% said managing these distractions was somewhat or much easier, 36% said it was somewhat or much harder and 23% said they'd had no change in their ability to manage these distractions. In general, the data showed that software teams are working more closely with product management, project management, operations and security. 

ASG also looked at the impacts on the state of software delivery in these times. More than two in three, 67%, report they have been able to prioritize the development of features based on expected business impact. "That's hugely important, because where we make an investment, if we know that up front, that means we're gaining or have good alignment with the business at the beginning of the process," Ashley said.

In addition, 63% said they plan to promote and articulate the value of new features released to end-users. "It's more than just telling the business, we've released software, status of the update, checkbox done," said Ashley. "The development teams are planning to promote not only what they've created, but also why it's important to the business to help maximize the value of what we're getting out of software." 

There are also challenges that persist. For example, 65% are unable to quantify the cost of delays in feature deliveries. "That indicates we have a gap in truly understanding the value to the business, but also in understanding the lost opportunity cost in the delay. That delay could mean a smaller capture of a portion of the market. It could means we're beat up by the competition. It could mean missed expectations with the customer."  

In addition, 50% reported they cannot measure the cost of development by functional area, and cannot measure the costs of defects found after a release. "Here, we have a lack of understanding of how to trace the cost of defects to the business, as well as, of course, to IT, that can help us drive investments in how we create software, and also, measuring development time, to make sure we're spending it on the valued features and managing our technical debt."

In addition, 84% said that inaccessible information impeded communications with each other, as well as with business leaders. Blame the "organizational and functional silos -- yes, the dreaded silos."

There also have been unexpected results coming out of the crisis. For example, 61% of respondents found it easier to work across time zones, with 40% indicating it is easier to work with staffers on different continents and 37% of respondents noted that it was easier to leverage "gig" or flexible part-time staffers to accomplish goals. 

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