We’ve all seen charts of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). They often have a stage with a name such as “operate” or “maintain” that the development team will briefly mention in their enthusiasm to move on to the next stage: building new features. But the operational phase of the software development lifecycle is, in many ways, the most important; it’s where the rubber meets the road.
By making operability a priority for your software, you’re investing in a maintainable present and the data to build the future. Here are four steps effective software development teams take to ensure they get the operational phase right.
1. Make User Interactions a Priority
One of the most important parts of software development is understanding your user and their needs and wants. Even if you invest heavily in business analysis and requirements gathering, the vast majority of interaction users have with your software takes place when no one from your team is present.
Getting the operational phase of the SDLC right is all about making any, and all, user interactions count. That means making sure that:
- The system is stable and performant
- You know in a timely manner when it isn’t
- You can take correcting action when you need to
- You stay within budget!
It’s critical to understand and take advantage of all the data your users are giving you in both the short and long term.
2. Put Stability and Performance First
Making your software stable and performant is crucial to the operational stage of the SDLC. While a whole series of articles could be written about how to achieve stability or performance, for now, we will address them only as abstract ideas.
In most cases, your users will outnumber your developers by a wide margin, which means investigating and fixing a bug can be a long process. For an impatient user, slow action on an important component can easily be equated to a bad software. To keep users happy and issues to a minimum, bugs must be a rare occurrence. Getting stability and performance right are not always easy, but those are the table stakes for building good software.
3. Understand the Importance of Logging and Monitoring
Logging and monitoring are essential to understanding how well or how poorly your software is running. The right metrics can help you measure your results and ensure the right next steps are taken. With a foundation of structured logs, you can build a system of intelligent reports and timely triggers and alerts that will keep your team informed. Short-term problems can be brought to your attention automatically so that your team can improve users’ experience before they even know there’s an issue. With the right retention policies, you’ll also capture data for analysis that can shape the longer-term future of your software.
A good system of logs is structured, query-able, trace-able, unified, and ubiquitous. With simple queries, you can see a problem on one function execution, trace through every call on every server that led to that problem, or view aggregated data on all similar executions this month. In a complex distributed system, the power and flexibility of your logging and tracing system can mean the difference between your team addressing an issue in minutes or needing days of testing to track down a problem.
4. Implement a Data Retention Strategy
In the longer term, a well-structured logging system, along with your business data and front-end analytics, can all feed into your enterprise data lake. The insights that could shape the future of your business are out there, hidden beneath every button click your users make. The fields of data science and machine learning are advancing remarkably, but the insights they can generate for your business are only as good as the data you can feed them. Making sure that information is available when you need it, without costing you an arm and a leg, is the basis of a good data retention strategy.
By helping your team focus beyond the user-facing features, you’re investing in a stable, maintainable system with data and insights that could drive the future of your business. At DragonSpears, we have developers who know the value of structuring and harnessing your data. to discuss how we can help.