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Feature Flagging 101: How to Know if Your Team is Ready for Feature Flags
Feature Flagging 101 With DevCycle

Feature Flagging 101: How to Know if Your Team is Ready for Feature Flags

You love feature flags, but how do you know if your team is ready for them? In this article, we'll cover the four requirements that we think all dev teams should meet before getting started with feature flags.

Madison Maher
Madison Maher
May 17, 2023

Is your team ready for feature flags?

We’re 2.5 weeks into our Feature Flagging 101 blog series. By this point, you know feature flagging is a powerful technique for development teams. You know they enable devs to release and iterate quickly, without compromising the quality of your software. You’re ready to implement feature flags in your engineering organization. But before you implement feature flags, you need to evaluate if your team is ready for them. 

Four indicators that your team is ready to use feature flags:

As users and creators of feature flags, we can tell you that getting started with feature flags is quite simple. In fact, we think there’s only four requirements a dev team must meet in order to get started with feature flags and use them to their fullest potential.

✅ Your team has a solid (automated) release process.

✅ Your team is adept at CI/CD

✅ Your team has a culture of trust and collaboration 

✅ Your team is analytics and monitoring savvy

A solid (automated) release game

To be ready for feature flags, your engineering team needs to have a solid (read: automated) release game. Feature flags require a structured approach to releasing new features, and so your team needs a well-defined release process in order to use them. 

Ask yourself: Are there any manual steps (other than triggering a workflow for continuous delivery) in your release process? If the answer is no, your team is probably ready to implement feature flags. 

If yes, you’ll want to nail down some solid automated testing and deployment processes before getting started with feature flags. But not to worry; moving towards a solid & automated release process doesn’t require much if your code is in order. It can be a fix as simple as a Makefile that compiles all your software. 

Trust us: trying to use feature flags without an automated release process is arguably pointless. In order to maximize their potential and see the greatest impact, you’ll want that automation in place before getting started. 

Adept at CI/CD

Speaking of automation, your team should be familiar with modern CI/CD tools and practices, and should be comfortable with automated testing, continuous integration, and continuous delivery before using feature flags. 

Ask yourself: Do you have a CI/CD pipeline in place that does static analysis tests and deployments? If so, you’re probably ready to take your CI/CD pipeline to the next level with feature flags. 

And if you’re not using CI/CD quite yet, doing so can be as simple as implementing some GitHub actions that build your software, run your tests, and copy it to the right place.

At DevCycle, we’re firm believers that feature flags can help dev teams maximize the potential of their CI/CD pipelines, and that CI/CD pipelines are absolutely crucial to maximizing the success of your feature flags. 

A culture of trust and collaboration

Feature flags require collaboration and communication across multiple teams within your entire company.

Your team should be able to work effectively with other teams (including the product team) to develop and release new features. This means that your engineering team should be able to trust the product team to be able to test, toggle, and release a new feature, and the product team needs to have full trust that the engineering team can build and deploy it.

Ask yourself: Are feature releases currently a team effort? Even better, are they a company effort? If so, your team probably has a strong culture of trust and collaboration between teams, which is a key indicator that they’re ready for feature flags. 

Analytics and monitoring savvy

Feature flags require a solid understanding of monitoring and analytics to track the performance of new features and identify any issues. Your engineering team should have a good understanding of monitoring and analytics tools and should be able to use them effectively to track the performance of new features and make data-driven decisions. 

In an ideal world, this would mean that you have centralized logging and exception management set up and in use. 

If not, it’s as easy as implementing Sentry or Rollbar to handle all your application’s errors in one place. 

Feature flags are all about helping your team get the best performing features into your users’ hands the fastest. And you can’t do that if you don’t know how to effectively monitor your code or identify performance issues in the first place.

Think your team is ready?

Ultimately, getting started with feature flags doesn’t require much and isn’t a heavy lift. Most mature dev teams check off all of the boxes already, and if you don’t, we’ve offered some easy “it’s as simple as…” suggestions to help you check them off. 

Think your team is ready for feature flags? Our next Feature Flagging 101 blog will cover the next step: How to talk to your team about feature flags. 

PS: Want to test out feature flags before then? Head to the platform and get started for free today.

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written By
Madison Maher

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