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Leveraging feature flags for continuous value delivery

Leveraging feature flags for continuous value delivery
Nihal Mehdi - Solution Architect | August 23, 2019
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digital

Are you really powering your business with digital transformation?

This question arises when 80% of businesses answer ‘Yes’ and only one out of four gets benefited. What does digital transformation mean for most of the businesses? If you ask this question, you will most likely end up with the following modern digital stack:

  • Using Agile for development
  • Cloud enablement
  • AI/ RPA-based automation
  • Data fabric and analytics

Power Digital Transformation using Progressive Delivery Practice

While this digital stack adds value to your business, the question remains whether this digital adoption is powering your business. I think ‘NO’. The digital journey is not complete till the business delivers value to their customers when they expect it.

Reduce Time to Market by 30% for retail customers and scale customer base at a global pace.

To meet customer expectations, businesses need to reduce time to market and accelerate the delivery process. That’s where feature flags play a key role.

What are feature flags and why are they needed for digital transformation?

Feature flags or feature toggles, comprise a changeover practice of DevOps culture. This is not new for the industry and most of you would agree with this. This is the right time to adapt this practice for continuous value delivery. The implementation of feature flags enables deployment in production for segmented users to add value to the product and reduce its release time. You might say we do release in production and not deployment. You are right, this was being done in the past, later needed to be adapted to deployment in production to accelerate release.

Feature toggles and canary releases in continuous delivery are used to define feature release strategies for testing in production. Both feature toggles and canary releases aim to reduce unforeseen problems and build confidence in releases.

Canary release with feature flags

Early feedback by a small percentage of users is the fundamental basis of canary releases. This group of users is known as a ‘cohort’. This cohort will consistently have new features turned on, while the other 99% of the user base will continue using the previous version. Key business metrics are monitored for both groups to gain confidence that the new features do not impact user behaviour negatively. This confidential check helps release the features carefully and take the right decisions at the right time.

Implement A/B testing

A/B testing (sometime called split testing) helps in making decisions to rollout better features at the first instance. Compare two different features, say A and B, by different cohorts with common attributes. Feature flags help to compare A/B features based on key metrics and then choose the best among the features.

In brief, feature flags enable businesses to dynamically control the availability of product/application features to the end customers. It lets IT teams to keep a simple branching strategy to maximize developer productivity without any merging issues. This is the first leap, but the road ahead to digital transformation offers even more opportunities such as:

  • Accelerated delivery
  • Faster innovation
  • Early feedback and the ability to react to feedback
  • Continuous value delivery

You could enable this practice in your organization by using the available product LaunchDarkly or a custom development approach using open-source frameworks.

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