What Is Continuous Integration, and What Does It Mean For Digital Products?
Sep 23, 2022
When developing digital products, businesses apply many code changes to attain streamlined results. Business owners achieve this with continuous integration (CI), which automates code changes from multiple sources, merging into a single repository. DevOps apply CI as part of their best practices, maintaining a reliable source to test and run their deployments.
With CI in place, digital product owners and managers can achieve iterative developments on their projects/websites, as well as more fluid life cycles. CIs with automated testing can also help developers keep to a specific specification, without straying off centre.
Specifically, with CI, developers can swiftly push code via automated testing, merging with the main site's code without friction or error. The latest version of Shopify Plus supports CI features and provides Product Managers with a slew of potential improvements to supercharge their business.
The Purpose and Functions of CI
CI combines with continuous development and delivery to form agile product development practices. According to market trends, an increasing number of SaaS companies have applied CI/CD processes in product development.
The CI/CD process works best when multiple developers work on a project simultaneously from various locations. With CI/CD, developers may merge codes across a streamlined structure, resulting in an aligned and synced outcome every time.
Most CI code integrations involve automated tests and builds that enable accurate and prompt detection of coding errors to drive quicker mitigation processes. CI runs with several principles that determine its performance.
Principles of CI
Core CI principles ensure that developers practice the highest standards in software development throughout every stage of a delivery life cycle. Additionally, these principles enable users to apply the process quickly and practically across every system.
Transparency Among Teams
CI should provide developers and product owners with uncompromised visibility throughout the team. Communication tools within CI should enable an unrestricted view of build progress and change history, at times including continuous displays to provide real-time monitoring of integrations.
While most developers associate CI with automation, the process is not mandatory. Therefore, product managers need to select and deploy CI automation tools to avoid costs resulting from error-prone manual processes.
For complete peace of mind, users should include automated testing with their builds. There are various automated testing tools available, depending on the nature of a software project. These include mobile, continuous, and API testing.
The final phase of CI automation involves deployment, enabling software to deploy code across multiple complex environments in a cost-effective and more accurate process. Automated deployment may also include automated rollback, where developers can revert code to an earlier version in the event of a bad build.
Clone Environment Testing
Aside from automated testing, developers and product managers should deploy CI testing in cloned environments. However, users should ensure that cloned environments mimic actual production environments right down to the slightest detail. Minimal differences may result in wildly different outcomes.
Mainline/Main Code Base Considerations
The primary purpose of CI involves creating streamlined code changes that fit well into the mainline/main code base. Therefore, product managers and developers must stay committed to the mainline throughout the project. For example, developers should consider daily integrations so they may report the slightest changes to the system. By doing so, developers may detect errors promptly and sound them out to the rest of the team quickly, preventing further complications.
Additionally, developers should commit their mainline on an integration machine, similar to a local build. By doing so, machines can continuously monitor the activities of the mainline repository, initiating builds for faster and more effective collaborations.
Use a Single Repository
Product managers and developers should integrate codes within a single reliable repository. Teams may achieve this with a source management tool. A single repository makes it easier for developers to share and make changes to individual features with minimum fuss and confusion.
Repair Broken Builds and Keep Them Fast
CI should enable DevOps teams to remediate a broken build without delay. Developers apply CIs to ensure stable code integrations and development. Hence, a broken build is counterintuitive to the process. As such, there should be a priority for build repairs.
Additionally, CI should enable teams to drive rapid development, allowing the teams to detect and resolve every software issue before integrating it into the main code bases.
Understanding the Benefits of CI In Digital Products
CI has many advantages, especially in an ever-shifting consumer climate where end-user products should stay highly responsive and constantly updated. Essentially, with a CI strategy in motion, Product Managers can look forward to improved performance that drives conversions and increased revenue.
The most prominent advantage of CI lies in its automated processes, where contributors can save valuable time without manually contributing changes to an end product. As such, developers can spend more time on more value-added actions, increasing the ROI for a digital product project. Additionally, the lack of CI might lead to poorly synchronised changes in product delivery, resulting in more time spent on revisions and other excess costs.
Increased Development Response Time
One primary goal of modern agile delivery systems lies in faster development response times. CI’s automated processes enable developers to test and integrate multiple code changes in digital products without compromising response times. By doing so, digital product owners and managers can quickly push site changes, scaling to the demands of end users in real time.
CI can significantly improve a user's experience with quick site updates and features to keep them engaged.
Market-Ready Products at Greater Speed
Sometimes the speed of market-ready changes could be the precious determinant of success for digital products like eCommerce websites. CI will help online businesses keep up with the highly competitive digital landscape, significantly reducing turnaround time for changes and delivering solutions at breakneck speed.
By responding to changes/trends quickly and efficiently with CI, eCommerce sites can drive improved success rates by capitalising on spaces and segments before competitors.
Consistent Code Quality
With CI, submitted code undergoes a quality check (i.e., CI test assertion suite that prevents software regression) before merging with the main site code. The additional automated process eliminates the risks of human error, getting rid of common issues such as integration-related bugs from external sources, which may result in system crashes and lags.
Developers can look forward to consistent code quality anytime across multiple environments, deploying system updates or changes at their convenience without fretting over integration flaws.
CI enables product managers to communicate seamlessly with developers, significantly improving transparency and collaborations throughout the DevOps team. CI features pull request features, enabling individual developers to monitor and comment on the progress and actions of other team members.
As such, developers can discuss the best strategies to improve digital product features as they progress through delivery pipelines.
Scaling Made Easy
CI eliminates bureaucratic costs, enabling digital product owners and managers to minimise code integration and communication overheads. The efficient method allows users to scale digital products development effectively with increased cost savings. Specifically, CI prevents businesses from overseeing individual features, trusting developers to work independently on code seamlessly integrating into the main code base.
Better Code Quality
The convenience of code integration makes it possible for developers to upload regular changes to digital products with optimal consistency. More frequent updates and changes result in quality software and improved collaborations that steer customer loyalty.
CI’s role makes up the first step of an automated software pipeline for digital products, leading to continuous deployment and continuous delivery. However, DevOps need to ensure the highest CI standards before processing software through the subsequent phases. CI is an essential DevOps process, and its effects benefit the overall business beyond software teams. With CI at work, Shopify Plus users can gain greater control over code changes, creating better offers and features that engage and retain end users in newfound ways.
WQA provides supercharged digital product development for growth driven companies around the world. Working with Startups, Scale-ups and Enterprise, we design, build and scale digital products, experiences and platforms used by millions of people.
If you want to learn more about a scaled approach to product design, you can chat to us or email us for a conversation and assessment of your unique digital context.