Enterprise Release Management Resolutions for 2016
By Dalibor Siroky
Happy 2016. To help you think about the Environment Management year ahead, we've assembled a collection of resolutions for you to try out.
Resolution #1 - I will plan ahead for environment requirements.
Many environment managers operate in a reactive mode. They make some wildly inaccurate forecasts about future demand and they sit on excess capacity throughout the year. When a project needs a new environment they dole out VMs or physical machines to projects, but they rarely think ahead and they rarely base estimates on easily predictable demand.
Don't be that lazy environment manager. In 2016, make a commitment to plan ahead. Dive into planning sessions with application development groups and start forecasting future demand. This is the only way to avoid bottlenecks and to ensure that you can sail through 2016 without having to tell a project that there just isn't enough capacity to satisfy an urgent request.
Resolution #2 - I will keep track of environment usage.
How often have you provisioned a new project's environments only to see them go unused for weeks or months (or longer?) Provisioning and maintaining idle environments wastes resources and often leads to situations where other projects are unable to access staging and QA resources because they are tied up doing nothing, and just because you've moved your environments to the cloud it doesn't mean that they are without cost. Environments must be maintained and monitored, and resources cost real money.
This year start doing something different. Start measuring how often an environment is used. For every environment you provision measure metrics about system usage, and measure the frequency of deployments. If an application development group tells you that a QA environment is critical for a project hold them accountable if they fail to make use of it. In a busy enterprise you'll often see groups provisioning environments defensively or asking for more than they need. It is your job as environment management to provide some pressure on teams to make efficient use of the resources they have been granted.
Resolution #3 - I will account for environment setup time.
If you use OpenStack or EC2, it is easy enough to spin up a few VMs, but are you really accounting for system configuration and setup time? If you use a relational database are you adding in the time it will take to take a snapshot of a production database and mask it for use in a staging environment?
If someone asks you how long it will take to spin up a new environment avoid the temptation to over simplify and tell them that you can have it ready in a few minutes or a few hours. Keep track of setup and configuration effort with Plutora and deliver more accurate assessments of environment setup times that are based on past performance.
Resolution #4 - I will create RACI matrices for every environment.
An environment without a clear owner is an environment adrift. When you provision an environment it is important that you assign responsibility for this environment to an individual. When you set up an environment in 2016 make someone responsible for maintaining this environment and keep track of this responsibility.
If an environment experiences a problem or if a staging environment isn't satisfying an SLA requirement create alerts to let the team know. Plutora gives you the ability to create RACI matrices for everything and to show you reports that give you the ability to involve the right people at the right times to support the systems you depend on.
Resolution #5 - I will automate Staging and QA deployments.
Staging and QA deployments are an oft-missed opportunity. This is a chance for an environment manager to directly support the automation work that is necessary to transition software from development to production, but it is common for Staging and QA environments to be deployed manually, by developers directly copying software to target environments.
Use this perfect opportunity of Staging and QA environments to rehearse and perfect your strategy for automated production deployments. This year have the resolve to sit down with your development teams and understand the full deployment process to staging and QA and support automation through a more modern approach to environment management.
Resolution #6 - I will assign end-dates to environments.
When you provision an environment for QA or Staging I'm sure you have a process to track provisioning and setup, but do you account for effort related to environment teardown? Do you inform teams that an environment has to be renewed? If you don't do either of these things, your environments are likely static and out-of-date.
In 2016 don't leave out the end of the project and make sure you take the time to plan for reclaiming environments once they are obsolete. The end of the software lifecycle might not be as visible as the beginning, but it is essential to understand how a project's environment requirements change when a project is either mature or reaching the end of its support lifecycle.
The Big Resolution: Upgrade Your Environment Management Practice
Environment management can be about much more than just making sure that your application teams have the appropriate infrastructure for testing and software development. It can be a platform for continuous improvement, and it can play a central role in your adoption of end-to-end automation.
With Plutora your organization can start adopting best-practices and transform environment management from a cost-center to a change agent.
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