How to implement an effective CI/CD pipeline

Thinking about improving your software development process? Wanting to streamline your delivery pipeline? Implementing an effective CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) can do just that. 

In this article, we explore the key benefits of this approach. We then analyze the critical components of a successful CI/CD pipeline. 

Read on for some tips on how to improve your CI/CD workflow and add some efficiency to your development process.

Table of contents:

What is CI/CD Pipeline?

CI/CD and DevOps

Implementing CI/CD – key benefits

How to Implement CI/CD in Your Organization


What is CI/CD Pipeline?

Let’s start from the basics: A CI/CD pipeline is an automated series of tests that follows the software development lifecycle from source code to production. 

It combines the practices of continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) to streamline the delivery process, reduce risk and increase efficiency.

 The pipeline builds the code, runs tests, and deploys the new software into production, providing fast feedback to developers and enabling code changes to be released to end users at any time. 

CI/CD pipelines are central to DevOps culture, promoting collaboration, productivity, and transparency among development teams. 

By reducing the time and effort required for manual processes such as integration, testing, and deployment, an automated CI/CD pipeline allows teams to focus on writing code and improving products. This can lead to increased collaboration, efficiency, and fewer software development life cycle errors.

Key stages of the CI/CD pipeline

The CI/CD pipeline may vary by project and team. The most common approach usually includes the following steps:

  1. Source: The pipeline is triggered by a new code committed to the repository.
  2. Build: The new code changes are compiled for initial testing.
  3. Test: The new code undergoes automated testing to identify any bugs.
  4. Deploy: The code is deployed to a testing or staging environment in preparation for the final release.
  5. Deploy to production: The code is released to end-users.

CI/CD and DevOps

By automating the code review and testing process, CI/CD allows development teams to deliver high-quality software. 

Bonus: Adopting CI/CD practices helps foster a culture of continuous improvement. This encourages teams to evaluate and improve their processes continuously.

This means that implementing CI/CD can be critical to any effective DevOps strategy.

Implementing CI/CD – key benefits

The implementation of CI/CD pipeline brings several benefits to the software development process. Here are some greatest hits:

  • Quicker time to market: CI/CD processes allow code to be ready for user deployment, reducing the time to market.
  • Fast and continuous feedback: With continuous delivery, teams receive continuous input from end-users, allowing them to incorporate this feedback into future releases.
  • Increased productivity: Teams can focus on building better products, as automated pipelines take care of tedious tasks.
  • Reduced risks: Frequent releases in small increments make it easier to spot and fix errors, reducing typical release risks.
  • Early bug detection and higher code quality: The CI/CD pipeline automatically tests code and signals developers of issues, improving the overall quality of the code.
  • Transparency: The pipeline clarifies new builds, test results, and any problems, allowing developers to avoid similar problems in the future.

How to Implement CI/CD in Your Organization

Set the purpose and metrics.

To effectively implement CI/CD within your organization, it can be crucial to clearly understand the reasons for doing so and your objectives. This includes identifying which metrics you want to prioritize and track. 

For instance, DevOps teams typically focus on four key DORA metrics: lead time for changes, change failure rate, deployment frequency, and mean time to recovery. 

Or you may just want to use CI/CD to transition from traditional software delivery practices to cloud-native ones, making a solid foundation in DevOps concepts pretty important.

Make frequent commits.

One of the essential best practices for a successful CI/CD pipeline is to commit code changes early and often. This practice helps to keep your team members informed of any changes and makes it easier to detect issues quickly. 

Committing code changes at least once daily is ideal so everyone is up-to-date. It also helps to minimize the risk of errors and merge conflicts when integrating changes into the trunk.

Use feature flags.

If the features are incomplete, you can use feature flags to hide unfinished changes from the end user. 

Feature flags are software development tools that allow developers to turn certain functionalities on or off, which enables them to test new changes in production without affecting end-users. You’ll find that feature flags are a key feature of feature management solutions like Unleash.

This way, even if some developers have completed their changes while others have not, they can still push them without waiting. This approach can significantly enhance the speed and safety of software deployment.

Moreover, using feature flags can help maintain the momentum of continuous integration and deliver on the promise of continuous delivery, as it allows developers to proceed with a release while keeping the unfinished changes hidden. 

This leads to faster time to market, the ability to gather continuous feedback, and increased customer satisfaction.

Feature flags can act as kill switches if a bug passes automated testing. With feature flags, developers can quickly turn off or roll back the affected feature instead of the entire feature release.

To fully utilize the benefits of this kind of solution, you can use an off-shelf feature management tool like Unleash that will help your team to reduce stress and risk, allowing them to focus on creating, testing, and releasing top-notch software.

Continuously evaluate and improve your automation processes.

Don’t forget about continuous improvement. Try to continuously review your automation processes to identify opportunities to increase efficiency. You can start by finding manual processes to automate and constantly evaluating what needs to be automated.

Make the pipeline the only deployment.

Often, requests to bypass the release process come from the perception that the change is minor or urgent. However, missing automated testing can lead to avoidable problems and make reproducing and fixing issues more difficult, as the build may not be readily available for testing.

Once you have established a fast and reliable pipeline, it’s a good idea to make it the exclusive path to deploy code to production.  This can help maintain the quality and consistency of code releases and reduces the risk of errors. 

Continuously monitor the pipeline.

To maintain the quality of your code releases and reduce the risk of errors, you must focus on continuous monitoring of the CI/CD pipeline. 

It helps you to identify areas for improvement and optimize your pipeline to ensure its reliability and performance. Monitor metrics collected by your CI/CD tool to identify any issues that need to be addressed. 

Put the focus on teamwork.

Creating a successful CI/CD pipeline is a team effort that involves both the processes and tools used, the team culture, and organizational practices. 

DevOps principles, such as breaking down silos between development, testing, and operations teams, encourage collaboration and shared responsibility for delivering software.

This can promote trust. It also allows team members to experiment and improve the pipeline, leading to another continuous cycle: internal improvement.

Prioritize tests.

The goal of CI/CD is to provide rapid feedback and deliver valuable software to users at a faster pace than traditional methods. 

To achieve this, consider prioritizing your tests to balance coverage and performance. Start with the quickest tests to get early feedback, and limit manual testing until after the automated tests have been completed successfully.

The first layer of automated tests should be unit tests to provide broad coverage and identify any obvious issues. After unit tests, consider automatic integration or component tests, and then invest in more complex automated tests such as GUI, performance, load, and security tests. 

When focusing on longer-running tests–whether automatic or manual–prioritize the areas that pose the most significant risk for your product and users.

By prioritizing tests and maintaining a balance between coverage and performance, you can improve the speed and efficiency of your CI/CD pipeline. You’ll also reduce the temptation to circumvent the process.


Implementing an effective CI/CD pipeline is crucial for improving the software development process and streamlining the delivery pipeline. 

If you want to fully utilize the benefits of this approach and improve your CI/CD workflow, check out Unleash. You may find it helps you finally take the first step towards an effective CI/CD pipeline.

Share this article