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DevOps Strategy Gives Grocery Retailer Food for Thought | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #ContinuousDelivery
Learn how this retailer cuts deployment error rate from 50% to almost zero by adopting DevOps practices

DevOps Strategy Gives Grocery Retailer Food for Thought
By Guenther Flamm

Retailers are witnessing a rising trend towards customers ordering food online and requesting hybrid delivery, such as home delivery, picking up from stores or dedicated pickup points. In light of this and other emerging innovations, retailers need to develop and deploy new applications quickly to support new customer-oriented services that maximize user convenience. If they fail, customers will turn to competitors offering the service capability they want and likely never return.

In this case study, we demonstrate how a major grocery and non-grocery retailer is being impacted by the digital economy, and how DevOps has come to the rescue to deliver faster release cycles, business growth, and increasing customer loyalty.

Situation Before DevOps
The grocery retailer needed to launch a new system landscape for multiple markets and product lines. These systems include an e-commerce shop, product catalog, order management and billing, online analytics, payment system interfaces, a fulfilment system, ERP and logistics systems. And if that wasn't enough of a challenge, the systems are being provided by different vendors, on different technology stacks!

There are challenges in development too. The grocery retailer has ten development teams in different locations and from different vendors. Initially, most teams applied some form of SCRUM, but there were no synchronized sprints and the output of sprints was not stable. Moreover, each sprint had to go through complete unit test, system test, and system integration test with partial and full regression. Sometimes it took several weeks before all systems were working in an integrated scenario after a sprint and BEFORE tests could even be started. Test cycles through ST and SIT took one month.

Release deployments were complex as well, requiring 16 hours and four hours of downtime owing to complex dependencies. Some 50% of deployments also had problems related to mistakes in manual steps such as application or environment configuration. As a result, the total release cycle time from demand to production was approximately six months (with about two months of development). Environment provisioning took several months and consequently environment congestion slowed down releases and caused a cascade of delays.

Scope of the Project
The grocery retailer's strategy is to restructure the organization and processes to support frequent full releases on a regular eight-week schedule and achieve Continuous Delivery. The steps taken included:

  1. Introduction of product owners for all systems/applications in scope and management of requirements backlog on application level.
  2. A release beat with milestones such as the integration point, start of SIT, SIT readiness and release packaging following a recurring schedule (cycle) to synchronize multiple applications and projects in program.
  3. Introduction of dependency impact assessments, joint release planning and sprint planning meetings across multiple projects and applications in program to plan all integration activities early on.
  4. Introduction of end-to-end agile project management to track items and their dependencies across all applications and through the different backlogs.
  5. Implementation of release management and a repeatable process to coordinate the delivery of all packages for integrated testing and ensure all dependencies are met prior to the integration point, production deployment planning and scheduling as well as final release packaging.
  6. Implementation of release automation for automated packaging and deployment of applications as well as the full orchestration of complex multi-application deployments.

Results achieved
By adopting a synchronized DevOps strategy, the grocery retailer achieved the following results:

  • Reduced release cycles from six months to eight weeks.
  • Implemented Continuous Delivery for isolated changes of web shop.
  • Decreased the deployment error rate from 50% to close to zero.
  • Implemented hot deployment for isolated changes to the web shop (fully automated).
  • Implemented 30-minute downtime window for major release from previous four hours - 90% automation.
About Automic Blog
Automic, a leader in business automation, helps enterprises drive competitive advantage by automating their IT factory - from on-premise to the Cloud, Big Data and the Internet of Things.

With offices across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, Automic powers over 2,600 customers including Bosch, PSA, BT, Carphone Warehouse, Deutsche Post, Societe Generale, TUI and Swisscom. The company is privately held by EQT. More information can be found at www.automic.com.

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