Improving Developer Productivity with Ephemeral Environments

Sam Allen
November 11, 2021
A car production line gaining productivity creating a ephemeral environment
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There seems to be an insatiable demand for software; indeed there is an app for everything these days. In many ways, modern software development is more akin to a continuous manufacturing process, where products are frequently produced and shipped. Software companies are constantly iterating on new product features. User expectations demand constant improvements ranging from bug fixes to expanded product offerings.

The Developer process for HOW software is shipped is vital for maintaining a competitive edge. For example, having access to rapid-prototyping test environments is a critical process that can greatly enhance the overall Developer Experience. At Release, our mission is to enable companies to get their best ideas to the world quickly by helping them produce consistent, reliable, and plentiful Environments on demand.

Additionally, having an overall improvement strategy for streamlining the Developer Experience is crucial for eliminating any internal friction that may arise. There are many different approaches for conducting process improvement, ranging from formal methodologies to informal ad hoc projects. All approaches are valid and can add value depending on your company culture. In recent years, the Lean Manufacturing philosophy has become a popular approach for analyzing and improving internal work processes.

Brief Lean Manufacturing History

Prior to pivoting my career toward software development, I lived another life as an industrial engineer facilitating Lean Manufacturing projects and workshops where the goal was to leverage employee ingenuity to identify and creatively eliminate any waste in a process.

The Lean Manufacturing philosophy has a rich history that can be traced back to Walter Shewart’s statistical quality control methods at Bell Laboratories in the early 20th century. W. Edward Deming learned and enhanced these techniques from Shewart. After WWII, Deming was called upon to help rebuild Japanese industry and he championed this thought-process of continuous improvement through statistical analysis. Companies like Toyota embraced this approach and continued to enhance it where it gradually morphed into the Lean philosophy that many of us are familiar with today.

Lean Manufacturing can now be found in other non-manufacturing sectors such as healthcare, banking, government, software development, etc. Essentially, all work consists of a “process” that can be continually improved upon, regardless of the product or work environment. Continuous improvement enables the employee to be more successful by standardizing or automating routines, eliminating blockers, and harvesting worker ideas for improving their own work. Many software companies do this naturally and they may or may not call it “kaizen”, which is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. There are agile scrum retrospectives where teams debrief on how their last Sprint went to see whether they can improve the overall developer experience. However a team approaches it, continuous improvement cannot be avoided.

How Release Can Help

At many tech organizations, there is still the common bottleneck problem of generating test environments. Software companies typically employ a DevOps team to produce such environments which can be costly to maintain and frequently break down. Any shared resource can be a pain point for both large and small companies that are trying to rapidly ship new features. Developer teams must wait around for testing environments to become available or argue over priorities and who can utilize the environment.

Our entire mission at Release is to enable companies to get their best ideas to the world quickly by helping them produce consistent, reliable, and plentiful Environments on demand. This is a huge kaizen improvement opportunity that can greatly improve the overall Developer Experience by eliminating frustrating downtime and improving quality, throughput, and morale. If you wish to get your organization set up with automated Environments, let us know how we can help you accomplish your mission faster and easier.

Photo by Lenny Kuhne on Unsplash

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