At a time when ‘silent quitting’ and the ‘great resignation’ are becoming common language, the notion of a product that empowers teams to deliver and control software, that brings automation to releases, streamlines feature flag management, and supports psychological safety for developers is more than a little intriguing. Added to that is the knowledge that this product has been embraced by more than a dozen government agencies to safely deliver and control software through feature flags. Here we catch up with LaunchDarkly’s Federal CTO Sara Mazer to learn more.
The Growth of the Single Kill Switch
LaunchDarkly was founded in 2014, currently has more than 3,000 customers and has worked with federal agencies since its early days. Either through systems integrators, contract managers or working directly, these agencies include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, US National Parks via Recreation.gov, and Freddie Mac.
Serving as a kill switch for new features, the implementation of LaunchDarkly eliminates risk for agencies, removing the need for the rollback of applications and the loss of features which took time to test, spin up, stage and rollout. The mean time to resolution drops from what was potentially minutes or hours to milliseconds, providing ease of use and security for federally focused teams.
A CMS Case Study
As part of its efforts with CMS, LaunchDarkly has been utilized by the agency to support its annual Medicare.gov open enrollment, the most highly trafficked period of the year for the agency. Using LaunchDarkly, development teams can deploy and test code leading up to open enrollment while hiding it from end-users. Previewing features significantly reduces the risk to the CMS during the open enrollment because developers have been able to vet functionality in production prior to releasing to the general public. Program managers control the transition from public preview to open enrollment by updating the site language and exposing the “Enroll” button using feature flags. All of this is done quickly, without the need to deploy new code, helping the teams deliver a seamless end-user experience in a simple way.
The Advantage for Federal Agencies
As a feature management platform, LaunchDarkly supports experimentation, something the government may want to implement but must try without adding risk. Its trunk-based development methodology allows developers to merge small, frequent updates, helping achieve CI/CD and increasing software delivery and organizational performance, achieving both budget and time to release demands.
In its final stages of approval, LaunchDarkly is working towards FedRAMP certification, which will make it the only such approved feature management solution to have achieved compliance for this standardized government approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.
There is extremely high pressure for DevOps teams when releasing a new feature or product, and that is especially true in the federal IT space. For LaunchDarkly, understanding the pain points of the developer community was integral and we conducted a study of 500 DevOps engineers to learn more about psychological safety. Among other points, the study revealed how innovation and retention are related to psychological safety. For example, 67% of developers either have or know someone who has left a job due to pressure around minimizing deployment errors.
LaunchDarkly’s software helps solve this developer pain point through eliminating both cognitive load and the pressure off of the engineer when an incident arises through the night or on a weekend and all fingers point to them for a resolution. Through the quick kill switch functionality, the ability to control and manage customer facing issues is managed instantly and not dependent on thinking through multiple additional considerations.
Beyond crisis modes, LaunchDarkly allows developers to add their code when it is ready, eliminating the need for one team member to wait on another. On the flip side, its software also avoids the stress of feeling everyone is watching and waiting for them if they need more time. Less friction between team members means a happier team and greater job satisfaction with many of the day-to-day stressors eliminated.