Why does deploy frequency matter?

Engineering Metrics

Oct 13, 2023

In the realm of software engineering, the frequency of deployment has emerged as a pivotal metric. But what makes it so crucial for an engineering team, stakeholders, and the broader organization? Let's explore the significance of deploy frequency and its implications in the software development landscape.

Continuous Deployment vs. Continuous Delivery: A Clarification

Before we delve into the essence of deploy frequency, it's imperative to distinguish between two often-interchanged terms: Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery.

Continuous Deployment is a practice where every code change undergoes the entire pipeline and is automatically deployed to the production environment. This approach ensures that users witness changes in real-time, necessitating a robust level of automation in testing and deployment processes.

Conversely, Continuous Delivery ensures that code changes are automatically tested for bugs and are primed for deployment to production, albeit requiring manual approval.

Both methodologies underscore the importance of deploy frequency. But why is it so pivotal?

The Relevance of Deploy Frequency

  1. Instant Feedback: A high deploy frequency implies that updates, fixes, or new features are regularly released to users. This provides the engineering team with immediate feedback, facilitating rapid iterations and enhancements.

  2. Optimized Development Process: Regular deployments streamline the development process. The engineering team becomes proficient at pinpointing bottlenecks, ensuring a seamless and efficient workflow.

  3. Boosted Team Performance: A consistent deploy frequency often correlates with a motivated engineering team. Witnessing their work go live frequently instills a sense of achievement, propelling them to maintain or even amplify the momentum.

  4. Stakeholder Contentment: For stakeholders, frequent deployments translate to a swifter time-to-market, aligning closely with business goals and ensuring the engineering organization remains agile.

  5. Risk Reduction: Deploying in smaller, frequent batches diminishes the risks associated with each release. Swift identification and rectification of issues ensure minimal downtime and heightened customer satisfaction.

Metrics: The Backbone of Deploy Frequency

Deploy frequency isn't an isolated concept. It's interwoven with various metrics that offer a comprehensive view of engineering productivity. Some pivotal metrics include:

  • Cycle Time: The duration from the inception of the code until its deployment. A condensed cycle time often signifies an efficient development process.

  • Lead Time: The time span from when a new feature is conceptualized to its delivery to the user.

  • Code Review Metrics: These encompass the time allocated for code reviews, the depth of these reviews, and the number of pull requests. Efficient code review processes typically lead to superior code quality.

  • Downtime Metrics: This pertains to the duration the application remains inaccessible to users. Minimizing downtime is paramount for user trust and satisfaction.

Bridging the Gap with BuildPulse

While comprehending and monitoring these metrics is vital, having the right tools to facilitate this is equally crucial. This is where BuildPulse Engineering Metrics comes into the picture. Not only does it aid engineering teams in tracking these metrics, but it also provides actionable insights for optimization. Moreover, with features like developer copilot notifications on stale pull requests and reviews, it ensures that the team remains on top of their tasks. By leveraging such tools, engineering leaders can ascertain that their teams are not merely active but also productive.

Wrapping Up

Deploy frequency stands as more than a mere number. It mirrors an engineering team's agility, efficiency, and alignment with overarching business objectives. By emphasizing deploy frequency and the intertwined metrics, engineering organizations can champion continuous improvement, ensuring consistent and efficient value delivery.

In the ever-evolving world of software development, it's not just about relentless hard work but also about intelligent strategizing. Deploy frequency, fortified by the right metrics and tools like BuildPulse, provides the roadmap for this journey.


What is the difference between a flaky test and a false positive?

A false positive is a test failure in your test suite due to an actual error in the code being executed, or a mismatch in what the test expects from the code.

A flaky test is when you have conflicting test results for the same code. For example, while running tests if you see that a test fails and passes, but the code hasn’t changed, then it’s a flaky test. There’s many causes of flakiness.

What is an example of a flaky test?

An example can be seen in growing test suites - when pull request builds fail for changes you haven’t made. Put differently, when you see a test pass and fail without any code change. These failed tests are flaky tests.

What are common causes of flakiness?

Broken assumptions in test automation and development process can introduce flaky tests - for example, if test data is shared between different tests whether asynchronous, high concurrency, or sequential, the results of one test can affect another. 

Poorly written test code can also be a factor. Improper polling, race conditions, improper event dependency handling, shared test data, or timeout handling for network requests or page loads. Any of these can lead to flaky test failures and test flakiness.

End-to-end tests that rely on internal API uptime can cause test flakiness and test failures.

What's the impact of flaky tests?

Flaky tests can wreck havoc on the development process - from wasted developer time from test retries, to creating bugs and product instability and missed releases, time-consuming flaky tests can grind your development process to a halt.

What is the best way to resolve or fix flaky tests?

Devops, software engineering, and software development teams will often need to compare code changes, logs, and other context across test environments from before the test instability started, and after - adding retries or reruns can also help with debugging. Test detection and test execution tooling can help automate this process as well. 

BuildPulse enables you to find, assess impact metrics, quarantine, and fix flaky tests.

What are some strategies for preventing flaky tests?

Paying attention and prioritizing flaky tests as they come up can be a good way to prevent them from becoming an issue. This is where a testing culture is important - if a flaky test case is spotted by an engineer, it should be logged right away. This, however, takes a certain level of hygiene - BuildPulse can provide monitoring so flaky tests are caught right away.

What type of tests have flaky tests?

Flaky tests can be seen across the testing process - unit tests, integration tests, end-to-end tests, UI tests, acceptance tests.

What if I don't have that many flaky tests?

Flaky tests can be stealthy - often ignored by engineers and test runs are retried, they build up until they can’t be ignored anymore. These automated tests slow down developer productivity, impact functionality, and reduce confidence in test results and test suites. Better to get ahead while it’s easy and invest in test management.

It’s also important to prevent regressions to catch flakiness early while it’s manageable.

What languages and continuous integration providers does BuildPulse work with?

BuildPulse integrates with all continuous integration providers (including GitHub Actions, BitBucket Pipelines, and more), test frameworks, and workflows.

Combat non-determinism, drive test confidence, and provide the best experience you can to your developers!

How long does implementation/integration with BuildPulse take?

Implementation/integration takes 5 minutes!

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