This post highlights the differences between the roles of a product manager and a product owner and when you might need both.
With their feature flagging solution, AB Tasty were able to safely and quickly launch new changes to end users without impacting quality through progressive delivery and continuous feedback loops.
In the world of SaaS, velocity and quality are of utmost importance. This is an industry that is constantly evolving and companies must work diligently to keep pace with consumers’ fast-changing needs and to maintain competitive advantage.
AB Tasty has seen a high growth in users all around the world. Consequently, AB Tasty had to accelerate their development processes, which meant that development and feature teams experienced high growth in order to enable the development of more features and increase speed of delivery to market.
The challenges of CI/CD
However, with such high growth and scaling, the company was faced with many growing pains and bottlenecks, which significantly slow down CI/CD processes. This increased the risk of pile up of issues, which defeats the initial purpose of accelerating time-to-market.
Even with mature CI/CD processes, developer and product teams are not immune to pitfalls that impact speed of delivery and go-to-market.
With these challenges in mind, the team at AB Tasty had four main objectives in mind:
- Accelerate time-to-market.
- Increase speed of delivery without sacrificing quality.
- Allow teams to remain autonomous to avoid delays.
- Reduce risk by avoiding big bang releases.
The team essentially needed a stress-free solution to push code into production and an easy-to-use interface that can be used by development teams to release features as soon as they’re ready to eliminate the issue of bottlenecks and by product teams to gain more control of the release process by running safe experiments in production to gather useful feedback.
This is when the team at AB Tasty turned to their server-side solution and feature flagging platform.
Feature flags were a way for the team to safely test and deploy new changes to any users of their choice while keeping them turned off for everyone else.
The team at AB Tasty was able to do this by, first, defining a flag in the feature management interface whose value is controlled remotely by the tool's API.
The team can then set targeting rules, that is the specific conditions for the flag to be triggered, based on the user ID. Using feature flags, they can perform highly granular user targeting, allowing them to target users using any user attributes to which they have access.
Then, in AB Tasty’s own codebase, teams can simply condition the activation of the feature that interests them, or its behavior, according to the value of the variable, using a simple conditional branch.
At the time, the company was working on a key project to revamp a major part of the UI namely the navigation system, which includes a new vertical navigation and new responsive grids to offer new personalization campaigns with the goal to make it more understandable to users.
For a project of this scope, there were big changes tied to many dependencies, such as the database, and so AB Tasty needed a way to progressively deploy these new changes to obtain initial feedback and avoid a big bang release.
Progressively deliver features
With such a large project, the goal was to mitigate risk by avoiding deploying major changes to all users at once. With feature flags, teams are able to reduce the number of users who can access the new changes.
In particular, the ON/OFF deployment logic of feature toggles within the feature management tool's interface works like a switch so teams can progressively roll out features based on pre-set targeting rules while turning them off for everyone else.
Easily set up and manage beta and early adopter lists
After testing internally, the product team was looking for a way to easily manage their early adopter list before releasing to the rest of their users. This will enable them to receive quicker feedback from the most relevant (and more forgiving) users.
With the feature management solution, teams can simply add these early adopters’ account ID into the targeting of the flag, where they can then immediately access the new feature exclusively before anyone else.
Release without stress by ensuring that developers are ready to tackle any issues
Since most of the development team was based in France, the new changes were initially rolled out to that region so developers can ensure that everything works and can quickly fix any bugs before deploying to other regions (and timezones).
Should anything go wrong, teams can easily roll back the release with a kill switch by immediately toggling a flag off within the feature flagging platform interface so that the feature is no longer visible.
Enable continuous feedback loops
Teams can now test in production on end-users and to optimize features and iterate faster based on real production data. As a result, teams can launch the end-product to all users with the reassurance that they have identified and fixed any issues.
This also empowers teams to become more innovative, as they now have a safe way to test and receive feedback on their ideas, and are no longer limited in their scope of work.
Furthermore, the ON/OFF deployment logic allows teams to release at their own pace. This accelerates the time-to-market as developers no longer need to wait for all changes to be ready to release their own changes resulting in less delays and disgruntled customers.
This speed would not be at the expense of quality as with continuous feedback loops, teams can iterate releases which ensures that only high quality products are released to users.
Teams can send features to production whenever they’re ready, make them visible to some users and officially launch to market once all deliverables are ready and good to go!