How Feature Management Reduces Downtime Risk

Downtime costs money. Lots of it. A recent account from an Unleash customer highlighted that before implementing Unleash, their company faced significant financial losses due to downtime around Black Friday, amounting to $123,016 per minute, or approximately $3.4 million each hour. If this seems high, remember that the largest online retailers can earn billions in revenue during the holiday season.  An
IBM study puts average downtime cost across the full calendar year for all industries at a more modest $6696/minute or $401,785/hour.  The bottom line is that downtime costs are real but increasingly avoidable.

Feature Management: A Critical Risk Mitigation Tool for Engineering Leaders

For VPs of Engineering responsible for rolling out new application versions and features, avoiding downtime due to bugs is essential. Feature Management is a solution to this very real problem because downtime caused by misbehaving features can be instantly turned off, rather than waiting for an entire deployment to be rolled back, a complex, messy, and time-consuming process even with a CI/CD environment.  As Charity Majors, a respected voice in DevOps, points out, when you tie feature releases to code deployments, “fixing a single character mistake takes the same amount of time as doubling the feature set!”  That is not what you want when the cost of downtime clocks in at $1000s per minute. Not all feature management solutions, however, are created equal.

Many large enterprises that we work with adopt Unleash only after building a homegrown solution that is hard to maintain and scale, lacks the security and audit controls needed to demonstrate compliance, and costs precious engineering resources that are pulled from other projects. When the cost of downtime is so great, there are better options than running a DIY system.  Some customers start with Unleash’s open-source offering, which was built according to 11 principles for building and scaling feature management systems. Others chose to invest in Unleash Enterprise, which enhances security and compliance capabilities while adding support, architectural, and migration assistance.  Even with licensing costs, the cost of maintaining a homegrown solution often exceeds the cost of using Unleash by a factor of 3x to 10x.

Reducing Risk and Increasing Velocity with Feature Flags

When application functionality is wrapped in a feature flag, the risk of downtime goes down dramatically. So much so that the Unleash customer mentioned at the beginning of this article, who previously lost roughly $125,000/minute on Black Friday due to downtime, didn’t need to start planning for Black Friday this year until the month of October.  That is how much confidence they have in their operational processes now that they are using feature management with Unleash. Code will have bugs. Period. Instead of testing code for 6 months prior to putting it into production, forward-leaning engineering leaders ensure instead that it is trivial to roll back without downtime if something goes wrong.

Beyond Risk Reduction: Enhancing User Experience and Revenue

Feature management isn’t just about reducing risks; it’s also about enhancing the user experience and driving revenue. In today’s fast-paced environment, the ability to rapidly deploy new features and improvements is crucial. By enabling teams to quickly remove or modify features without major downtime, feature flags accelerate the deployment cycle. This agility allows businesses to respond more effectively to market demands, improve user satisfaction, and ultimately increase their revenue stream.

The Future of Application Deployment: Agility and Reliability

As we look to the future, the importance of feature management in application deployment will only grow. The digital economy demands both agility and reliability. VPs of Engineering must continue to innovate and embrace tools like feature flags to stay competitive. The goal is clear: reduce downtime, enhance user experience, and drive revenue growth. Are you confident that when bugs are inevitable, you can keep up with business demands for new features without opening yourself up to costly downtime? With the right approach to feature management, businesses can turn the challenge of downtime into an opportunity for growth and innovation. Need help? Talk to Unleash today.

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