Agile & DevOps

Why your IT systems are like a Formula 1 car

So the new Formula 1 season is upon us and launches this Sunday in Australia. 

It seems like only yesterday that the last season ended with yet another victory for the usual suspects.

What got this into my mind was a visit to one of our customers yesterday. They specialize in high-end high-performance sports cars but they are most famous for their history and heritage in Formula 1 motor racing.

Those of us who are interested in F1 will have seen news over the last few weeks of pre-season testing.

In total, the teams covered 23,076 miles. That’s very nearly the circumference of the earth!

That’s a lot of testing but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ultimately this is the culmination of many months of work over the winter to ensure that this season’s cars are a little bit quicker and more reliable than last year and more importantly than their competition.

IT systems and departments are not too dissimilar.

We spend many months building software and applications to make our businesses faster, safer and more competitive.

We’d be pretty stupid if we didn’t test properly before delivering them into critical business production systems.

And we need to test everything.

F1 teams don’t just test the engine performance or the brakes.  One small change to a front wing can have a huge impact on other areas so they need to test everything – Engine, brakes, tyres, suspension, aerodynamics, transmission, driver safety… The list goes on.  It all needs to work in harmony to deliver the success they crave. And this is not just one big-bang test at the end. Testing is continuous and needs to constantly evolve over time in order to stay at the front.

In IT we need to do the same.  Whether we’re building a mobile app, a website or operating in large scale ERP systems like SAP, we need to ensure that all the components of what we have built work together to deliver the required business outcomes and success.

For this, we need robust testing processes.  We need to run full regression tests before we put anything live to give us the best shot at being successful. In all likelihood, we’ll want to deliver incrementally as is the case in Agile and DevOps. Here the testing is also continuous as we validate the impact of every change as part of the delivery process.

The F1 customer I was referring to at the top are very excited about their season “Go live”.

They don’t want to fail in qualifying, get stuck on the starting grid, crash out on lap 15 or break down a couple of races into the season because of a component that was tested in isolation rather than as part of the holistic system.

We also don’t want this when we put our business systems into the hands of our “drivers”. They expect them to deliver what’s been promised and why shouldn’t they.

So never underestimate the importance of testing your software and application releases. Your business relies on them and their success hinges on them so test continuously and test everything then you’ll have a chance of staying ahead of your competition.

I wish our customer much success in the coming season.  It’s tough and competitive out there!

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