Importing Mobile Apps From Code Repositories Streamlines DevOps Deployment Workflows

Nikfar Khaleeli | Mar 30, 2021

CI/CD Integrations Streamline Mobile App Deployment Workflows

I recently blogged about the challenges surrounding some of the mobile app delivery tasks that must be performed as part of a mobile app deployment workflow. App signing and app distribution are examples of basic tasks, while generating BlackBerry Dynamics-enabled apps or Microsoft Intune-enabled apps with remote access capabilities without writing code are examples of advanced tasks that DevOps can perform through workflow orchestration with the Blue Cedar Platform. Getting a mobile app into a deployment workflow is an example of another basic task that warrants some attention as it impacts release velocity of mobile apps. 

Automate App Import From Your CI/CD Pipeline

There are many ways of getting apps into the deployment flow. The most obvious is manual upload through a UI. While this approach is simple and unencumbered, it is not pragmatic in a complex enterprise world where DevOps is responsible for deploying dozens of apps.

The better option is to integrate the import process with continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) technologies. You can do this with the Blue Cedar Platform. CI/CD integration yields a more efficient and scalable approach for importing apps. When developers make code changes and generate new binaries, the compiled mobile app automatically gets pulled into the deployment workflows created by DevOps. There is no manual handoff.

Automation is essential in today's world, where the mobile apps that DevOps must deploy to end users originate from multiple sources. Apps may come from internal development teams or third party vendors. Even for internally developed mobile apps, there may be multiple teams working on different apps. It is not uncommon for teams to use different code repository technologies for collaboration. Mobile apps will be updated multiple times a year. Each update will likely result in DevOps performing a new deployment of that app. When your mobile app portfolio runs into the dozens, the simple act of importing apps into deployment workflows has high potential for error because you have to work across multiple companies, teams, and code repositories. How do you coordinate all of this to make the app import process as seamless as possible, with the end goal of having streamlined mobile app deployments?

CI/CD solutions like GitHub, GitLab, Jenkins, and Bamboo are commonly used by development teams at large and small companies. Third-party software vendors also rely on these products. Having a mechanism to automatically import mobile app binaries from a variety of CI/CD solutions into deployment workflows is beneficial to DevOps as it accelerates the mobile app deployment process in a highly scalable fashion. 

Reduce Deployment Delays with Triggers and Notifications

Easily pulling mobile apps into deployment workflows is just one of the many benefits of integrations with CI/CD tools. The integration must also support value-generating activities, helping to optimize mobile app delivery lead time.

Many CI/CD tools provide notifications based on user-defined triggers to tell you about status changes. A notification will alert you, for example, when a new mobile app or new version of a mobile app is available. Using triggers and notifications means you don't have to keep checking for, and then manually upload, an app. Instead, you can be notified when something requires your attention, like a new app version, and you can decide whether or not you want to start a deployment workflow.

Notifications also enable shorter deployment times. Consider the following: your mobile app deployment orchestration solution notifies you, perhaps via email, that a new version of a third-party collaboration app is available on a public GitHub repository. You get this notification because you’ve configured your orchestration solution to monitor that GitHub repository. You then go into your orchestration solution’s console to kick off a deployment workflow. Then, the other things that may need to be performed as part of a deployment—for example, no-code integration of BlackBerry Dynamics into an Android app, signing that app, and then distributing the modified and signed Android app to a BlackBerry UEM App Catalog—all just happen automatically.

Optimize Deployments with Metrics and Analytics

Integrations enable workflows to have broader reach but, more importantly, they provide a deployment orchestration solution with additional sources of deployment metrics. Having data for different types of deployment activities, such as app import, app signing, and app distribution, centrally accessible makes it easy for a company to get end-to-end visibility about mobile app delivery. Deployment data can also be correlated and analyzed to provide insights that are essential to pinpointing deployment constraints and recommendations on actions to take that will optimize deployments. 

For example, tracking how long it takes to do an actual app import is an important metric. If, on average, an app import takes 10 minutes, one that is taking much longer is a clear indication of an error somewhere in the deployment flow. Tracking such things could help identify potential problems.

Another important metric worth tracking is the time between receiving notification about a new version of an already deployed mobile app and kicking off a deployment workflow. An inordinate delay between the two would indicate a prime candidate for deployment optimization. 

Connecting app import metrics with metrics for other deployment activities can provide additional insights. For example, how long did it take to deploy a mobile app, starting from the time when the app was imported from the code repository to when it was pushed to an app store? How does the time taken to execute this instance of a workflow compare to the average time taken for the same workflow over the last 30 days? How does it compare to the average time for all mobile app deployment workflows at the company? 

Improve Mobile App Delivery

Digital transformation is important for companies that want to grow and stay ahead of the competition. Mobile apps are key constituents of a digital transformation strategy but, unfortunately, companies find it challenging to deploy mobile apps to end users. A solution such as the Blue Cedar Platform, which streamlines mobile apps deployments through workflow orchestration, provides tremendous value for such companies. 

But streamlined deployments, though important, are not the only benefit of workflow orchestration with the Blue Cedar Platform. An additional benefit is the role that mobile app deployment  data plays in value stream management

Companies are increasingly turning to value stream management to measure the value of software development and delivery efforts and resources. Visibility of and traceability into all the product delivery processes, from idea generation to application deployment and operation, are needed in order to bubble up bottlenecks and delivery metrics so that DevOps teams can perform data-driven actions to improve product delivery throughput. 

Workflow orchestration with the Blue Cedar Platform provides valuable data about mobile app deployment that is currently not being considered in this analysis. Blue Cedar automatically captures an unlimited history of data for all the deployment activities—from app import to app distribution—that it orchestrates. When an app was imported, how many times an app has been deployed, which users were involved in a deployment, who signed the app, and more—all this is centralized in the cloud. With the Blue Cedar Platform, companies have a powerful solution for value stream management focused on mobile.

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