Affected by a rapid digitalization process, companies in the retail sector must ensure the continuous delivery of new application services to meet the demands of the business and the market, while maintaining competitiveness. Thanks to Continuous Delivery techniques, they can achieve their goal, managing to shorten the development, release and distribution times of new code.
Continuous Delivery: what it is and what benefits it offers
Among the practices of the DevOps methodology for managing the software lifecycle, Continuous Delivery (CD) aims to ensure the frequent release of applications and updates, accelerating their distribution to production environments.
Previously, the activities of compiling of the builds, allowing the transformation of the source code into executable artifacts updated to the latest changes, were carried out manually. And the same was happening with the activities of deployment and testing, practised to verify the stability and correct software operation after changes made and after implementation in the production environment.
Thanks to the automation techniques and tools, all these activities are now accelerated and executed in a continuous cycle.
The concept of Continuous Integration (CI) is closely connected to the Continuous Delivery approach. The changes to the code made by the different development teams working in parallel on a project are merged immediately into a single repository. This way, everyone can proceed in carrying out the activities starting from the updated codebase. All changes to the code are then tested, validated and distributed automatically and immediately thanks to Continuous Delivery.
In combination with Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery allows to reduce the release and distribution times of applications, as well as to eliminate errors due to the manual management of processes for testing and implementation. This allows developers to focus on more strategic development activities rather than solving operational problems.
How the retailers’ world is changing
The benefits of Continuous Delivery are extremely effective in a sector such as the Retail world, which in the last ten years has undergone a deep structural, organizational and technological evolution.
Digital innovation has radically changed consumer habits and is transforming the role of the physical store. This becomes just complementary to the online store, as a place for face-to-face interactions.
In particular, digitization in the retail world pushes on three fronts: backend processes - for example, with the introduction of solutions to support electronic invoicing, product tracking and warehouse efficiency; the customer experience inside the stores with the adoption of advanced payment systems, self-scanning and self check-out, sales force automation; support for omnichannel with the creation of sites, e-commerce portals, social pages and mobile apps.
As can be seen from the scenario described, the ecosystem of applications that revolves around any retail operator is growing exponentially, with the cost of enormous complexity to manage. The IT department must be able to keep pace with the demands of internal users and especially of increasingly demanding end customers, who want continuous innovation of digital services.
The benefits of Continuous Delivery for the Retail sector
Managing an application scenario in a quick and functional way to the needs of the business and customers requires a new approach, compared to the traditional waterfall method. Hence the growing popularity of Agile and DevOps models, which aim to divide software development projects into small and frequent releases.
Rather than waiting for the final release of an application or modification, small highly specialized teams work in parallel on specific areas of intervention. The development process is divided into short cycles of activities, each aimed at achieving an intermediate result (for example, a functional improvement or the correction of a bug) that brings the project closer to the final goal. Thanks to the Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery processes, each change is tested and immediately released, then made available to end-users.
The new approaches to software development can therefore prove to be particularly useful for retailers who, for example, must very quickly develop innovative solutions for physical stores, implement effective functions for payment on e-commerce platforms, invent captivating mobile apps aimed at engagement.
The Retail market is increasingly competitive and consumer demands vary very quickly: promptly offering digital services aligned with requests, thanks to Continuous Delivery, is essential for the success of the company.