Continuous Delivery in a Mobile World

If you took a poll of the mobile development teams out there, odds are that most of the teams are using some form of Agile development methodology practice.  One of the reasons is that the concept of Agile sprints fit very well into the update model that the mobile app market has defined. The sprints, enhanced quality assurance and multiple test cycles of Agile development provide all of the necessary ingredients for mobile apps to get there. In all likelihood, along with Agile sprints, a given mobile team is using Continuous Integration to manage their build process and unit/acceptances tests.  However, many teams are failing to take the next step to Continuous Delivery.  Once the final version of the mobile application is built, it needs to be delivered to the next stage of the application delivery lifecycle which in this case is the respective platform’s App Store.
The goal of Continuous Delivery is to deliver the new features or bugs identified in the sprint out to the customers and users as soon as possible. Quite often, we are still stuck in the mode of considering the sprint done once the mobile app has passed QA and only after X number of sprints is the app slated for a production release.  However, if development continues sprint after sprint with no release, the development team risks a loss of enthusiasm and the project, a loss of context when the project manager attempts to judge the application’s state of completion. We fail to recognize that mobile apps are different from their web-app brethren in a number of ways.  Mobile apps have a small footprint and upload to the App Stores quickly and the process to identify a new version rather painless.  In addition, for the user, an update is identified as being available through the App Store infrastructure and is downloaded quickly and the update applied efficiently and smoothly. Users come to expect a steady stream of updates to their mobile apps and begin to wonder if the mobile app has been abandoned when updates do not appear on a frequent basis.  So, as an Agile team, we need to ensure that the final step to a sprint is a release to the App Store, not just another round of development.

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