Measuring Feature Management ROI: 7 Ways to Track Success

6 min read

DevOps is a must-have for organizations looking to stay ahead of the curve. Yet, although 80% of developers say their company is making the move to DevOps, only 10% say they’re routinely deploying code to production and just 14% achieve excellence in software development, according to recent survey data from the CD Foundation.

Feature management solutions help streamline this process by allowing teams to change application behavior on demand. But, what does this mean for return on investment (ROI)? How do businesses measure the impact of these feature frameworks to ensure they’re living up to expectations?

Read on to learn the basics of these solutions, dive into their key benefits, and discover 7 ways to measure success.

What is Feature Management?

Feature management solutions are designed to help DevOps teams improve development pipelines and bring more value to customers. So, what does this look like in practice?

It starts with the understanding that software releases aren’t monolithic. Instead, they’re made up of multiple components that work in unison to deliver the desired output. These parts vary in size; in some cases, teams need to modify small pieces of code that may be causing interface or operational issues. In others, larger features may be either the symptom or root cause of production problems.

The challenge is managing these features at scale. To accomplish this goal, developers use feature flags. These flags act as switches that allow teams to change application behavior in runtime, rather than replying. In other words, flags let your team turn features on or off without shutting down the entire process and starting from scratch.

Think of it like wiring a string of lights in parallel rather than in series—disconnect a light in series and the whole string goes dark. Do the same in parallel and only the light you removed no longer works. Traditional software development has operated in series; shutting down one feature required “rewiring” in the form of deployment to turn on or off any single feature. Feature flags, meanwhile, make it possible to build applications in parallel. If there’s a potential feature problem or conflict, behavior can be dynamically altered in runtime without causing the entire application to crash.

Enterprise Benefits of Feature Flags

Although feature flags make it possible to adjust application behavior in situ, they require careful and continuous management to be effective at scale. Consider an application with multiple features that DevOps teams are evaluating simultaneously. Tracking the use of feature flags is critical for developers to ensure they understand the impact each flag has on the application itself—and how these flags interact with each other.

Feature flag solutions make it possible to manage multiple flags simultaneously, which, in turn, provides increased visibility and reliability. For businesses just making the move to DevOps, homegrown solutions tied to legacy deployments may be enough to manage feature volumes and value, but as application volumes and complexity grow, it’s worth considering commercial enterprise offerings that offer both advanced and scalable functionality.

Key benefits of these solutions can allow your teams to move faster, recover sooner, boost developer productivity, and drive more innovation.

Improved delivery times

Because management tools make it possible to easily turn features on and off—and track these feature flags at scale—businesses are better positioned to deploy new features faster and with less risk, ultimately improving the entire software development lifecycle.

This reduction in time is one of the primary DevOps pillars, but it’s often a challenge to achieve as applications and services become more complex.

Quicker recoveries

Despite best efforts, no code is error-free. Feature flag management enables DevOps teams to turn off broken features during development or even when services are live. This reduces the overall impact on end users, the time required to make changes, and the complexity of restoring service if a problem occurs.

Companies using these tools report significantly fewer software rollbacks, faster mean time to restore service, and faster bug fixes.

Increased productivity

Although the concept of DevOps focuses on improved production and increased productivity, teams often struggle to reach this goal because they’re spending too much time worrying about infrastructure, handling release management, and addressing rollback issues. Feature management tools can help cut down on the need for administrative and manual tasks by providing developers with on-demand data about current flag activation and its impact on apps.

This gives them more time to focus on what matters: building better software.

Enhanced insights

Ongoing innovation is a hallmark of DevOps deployments, but this isn’t possible without continuous feedback from both teams and end users. Management tools make it possible to gain highly targeted feedback about how real customers use new application features—and where these features may fall short. For example, companies can use these solutions to conduct robust A/B testing or run beta programs that help pinpoint what customers like about current apps and what they want to see in future releases.

Developer-friendly workflows

The ideal feature flag tool comes with developer-friendly workflows, such as bidirectional configuration as code with GitHub, making it easy for developers to edit flags in the environments of their choice—without the need for a dashboard.

7 Ways to Measure Feature Management Success

It’s one thing to deploy feature management solutions; it’s another to measure their impact. Although the benefits listed above describe the potential of these feature frameworks, the C-suite and team leaders need ways to gauge both qualitative and quantitative outcomes on ROI.

Here are seven ways to measure feature flag management success:

1. Monitor feature deployment
2. Collect developer feedback
3. Measure recovery time
4. Connect with end users
5. Assess developer activity
6. Consider what you don’t see
7. Track testing benchmarks

For more details, download our whitepaper, Measuring Feature Management ROI: 7 Ways to Track Success.

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