October 5, 2023

The Journey to Using Feature Flags at Their Full Potential

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

Achieving full potential with feature flags involves a four-step journey: awareness, experimentation, adoption, and optimization. This structured approach enhances software delivery by promoting innovation, improving deployment processes, and ensuring robust management of feature flags.

At Harness, feature flags aren’t just a tool; they are integral to promoting a culture of innovation and continuous delivery in software engineering. They may seem like simple software switches to hide or activate features, however, using them to their full potential cannot be done in a day. Rather, it requires following steps of learning and usage to bring you closer to that “full potential” radius.

Even here at Harness, we still walk our teams through the different steps of interacting with Harness Feature Flags, from basic awareness, to full maturity. In fact, this process allowed our teams to release the 4 new modules introduced at Unscripted 2023 by using our feature flags to release the modules to the production environment. 

4 New Modules Launched at Unscripted 2023: Code Repository, Internal Developer Portal, Infrastructure as Code Management, Software Supply Chain Assurance
4 New Modules Launched at Unscripted 2023

If you want your team to incorporate feature flags into your workflow, you can’t just jump to that full maturity step. Rather, you need to follow a journey of learning and bring your team along for the ride. Let’s dive deeper into these steps and explore how you can elevate your team's proficiency and efficiency in utilizing a feature flag management tool.

The 4 Steps of Integrating Feature Flag Adoption

Step 1: Awareness

Awareness is where the journey begins. It’s not just about knowing that feature flags exist, but understanding their potential impact on software delivery. Building a comprehensive awareness involves creating an internal ecosystem where knowledge about feature flags is easily accessible and shared.

Action Steps:

  • Educational Content: Develop a repository of educational content, incorporating various media - articles, webinars, and interactive learning modules to cater to diverse learning preferences.
  • Internal Advocates: Identify and nurture internal advocates who can share their firsthand experiences and successes with feature flags, if there are any.
  • Community Engagement: Leverage external communities and forums in places like social media to bring in diverse perspectives and insights.

Step 2: Experimentation

Experimentation is the playground where teams immerse themselves in the practical aspects of feature flags. It’s a phase of learning, making mistakes, and iterating - all contributing to a richer, deeper understanding.

Action Steps:

  • Learning Workshops: Follow workshops tailored to your organization's specific use cases and challenges.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism to gain insights, address challenges, and refine the experimentation process.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Foster collaboration among developers, operations, and product teams to explore diverse use cases. Everyone can benefit from feature flags, so hearing them out can bring light to its potential.
Multivariate Flag


Step 3: Adoption

Adoption signifies the transition from isolated experimentation to ingrained practice. It’s where the application of feature flags becomes more structured and systematic.

Action Steps:

  • Integration with CI/CD: Begin integrating feature flags into your CI/CD pipelines to streamline the deployment process. This is the first true step where feature flags are now a part of your delivery process.
  • Governance Structure: Implement a governance structure to manage the lifecycle of feature flags, ensuring they are used optimally and retired when obsolete. So may see this step as lying in Step 4 but it’s key to start using a governance structure early on so that you can ensure that things can grow smoothly.
  • Metrics and KPIs: Develop metrics and KPIs to evaluate the impact of feature flags on software delivery and performance. This can both show the worth of your new tool while illustrating potential room for improvement.
Example of enforced governance as part of a release pipeline
Example of enforced governance as part of a release pipeline

Step 4: Optimization

Optimization focuses on refining and enhancing the use of feature flags. It’s where teams become adept at leveraging feature flags for varied scenarios, from dark launches to canary releases.

Action Steps:

  • Automation: Explore automation opportunities to manage feature flags efficiently, reducing manual oversight. This includes things like assisted stale flag detection to manage tech-debt.
  • Customization: Customize feature flagging tools and practices to align with specific organizational needs and objectives. Practices like targeted rollouts and progressive delivery now become more fine-tuned.
  • Advanced Analytics: Utilize advanced analytics to derive actionable insights for informed decision-making in order to improve your pipeline, align with business goals, and enhance the user experience.
Feature Flag Dashboard

Embark on Your Journey with Harness Feature Flags

Embarking on the journey of feature flag adoption demands not just robust technology but a partner committed to your success. Harness Feature Flags is designed to be that partner. Every feature, every innovation is inspired by our unwavering commitment to empower developers to build, test, and deploy with unprecedented speed, scale, and safety.

Here are some of the key benefits of using Harness Feature Flags for your project:

  • Automated rollout pipelines: Harness Feature Flags allows you to create automated rollout pipelines that can be used to deploy new features to production in a controlled and predictable manner.
  • Governance: Harness Feature Flags has the most in-depth governance tool with  Harness Policy as Code, powered by Open Policy Agent (OPA), providing a number of capabilities such as role-based access control, approval workflows, and audit logging.
  • Automated lifecycle management : Harness Feature Flags helps you manage your flag tech-debt by detecting potentially stale or deprecated flags and automatically removing them if needed
  • Integrated with CI/CD: Since Harness covers a range of software delivery products, you can easily integrate your feature flags into CI/CD as a unified pipeline that helps maintain the flags as part of the software development lifecycle.

Conclusion

The transformative journey of adopting feature flags is as intricate as it is rewarding. It’s not a linear path but a dynamic, evolving process that adapts and molds according to organizational needs and challenges.

Embark on your transformative journey with a free trial of Harness Feature Flags and unveil a world where innovation, reliability, and speed coexist, driving unprecedented value for your teams and customers alike.

Engage, Explore, Empower!

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