How can governments build services quickly while also ensuring they work? DevOps is an approach that allows this by bringing the developer and operation teams together to build digital services.
Traditionally, these two steps – writing the code and testing it in a safe environment – have been done separately. DevOps streamlines the building process by testing as teams write the code, allowing services to be launched much faster.
Experts at software company Micro Focus delve into why an integrated approach can help governments. They share four things organisations can do to achieve DevOps, and how a third element – security – can be built into this process.
Four steps to good DevOps
Here are four key elements for creating a productive DevOps process.
Well planned is half done, as they say. When building a new service, teams should not only plan for the timeline for when different bits of code are written. They should also keep in mind what’s needed until the service is rolled out for users, and how it aligns with the broader objectives of the organisation.
Setting up a system for tracking all build or change requests will help planning. Many times, people are still relying on email documents to send requests for a particular feature. But it’s not documented anywhere, and nobody has visibility. Having a tracking system ensures smooth collaboration between different departments involved in the building process.
Before the US state of Oklahoma passed a bill to consolidate IT projects, it had no central way of tracking all of its projects and budgets. Micro Focus’s Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) tool changed that, allowing the state to have a clear overview of all IT projects for the first time.
Across its different agencies, the state has 350 to 400 ongoing IT projects at any one time. It can be hard to keep track of all these, but the tool made it easier to see where the state was receiving common requests, so agencies can build shared services to save time and money.
2. Automate testing
The second step is to test the service as early and often as possible. Every time you release new code, you need to make sure you’re not breaking what you built in the past. These tests can be very repetitive and manual, which makes them the perfect candidate for automation.
A European government agency was able to increase its testing productivity with Micro Focus’s test automation tools. The center run around 500 application tests every month to ensure it delivers quality services. The automation tool will allow the center to automate more than a quarter of these tests in the near future.
One aspect of such tests is to understand how a user would respond to the service. AI and machine learning can make this more effective by focusing on how a user would interact with the service, rather than simply looking for errors in the code.
For instance, does a search button look like a search button? Features should be recognised based on how it appears on the screen, not what the code says in the backend.
On top of testing how well a service works, these automated tests can also run security checks. This approach of integrating security tests early on in the building process is known as DevSecOps.
Micro Focus’s test automation tool is supported by a huge research team, which studies the different types of vulnerabilities across 40 programming languages to ensure all bases are covered.
3. Automate deployment
After testing a service’s code for function and security, teams have to run a trial to see if the service is usable and ready for rolling out to the public. This type of trial, called the deployment process, usually has to be done manually, but there are now tools to help automate it.
A UK Government agency automated testing to ensure software upgrades would not disrupt its service delivery. The tests helped the agency identify major issues in the software early, saving half the cost and 90 per cent of the time.
While some cloud services already provide automatic deployment tools, Micro Focus’s deployment automation tool allows organisations to run new services automatically no matter where they would like to deploy it.
Organisations may sometimes want to deploy services across public clouds, private clouds and also on their local servers. This is especially relevant for government agencies, which may host their data in different places.
4. Tie it all together
The final step is to keep track of all the changes and issues along the entire building process. This is so teams know exactly why each change has been made to the code. Orgnanisations need to have the capabilities to manage scale, variety and complexities of tools, processes and distributed environments across their development lifecycle to meet business objectives fast.
World Wide Technology uses Micro Focus’s solutions to scale their testing capabilities and importantly, ability to improve business outcomes with real-time data-driven insights. Faced with a critical task of migrating a core business suite to cloud, they had to ensure agile development and testing at scale, and to do so across multiple teams including offshore ones in different timezones. The team initially struggled with test reports, which become more complex as the application moves along the test cycles. Now, they can coordinate easily with increased visibility between different members of the team when handing over tasks and easily keep track of tests.
Governments need an effective system that guarantees quality and security as they build new services. Along the way, automation tools and continuous security tests will help governments serve citizens better.