Tyler Tech Takes CI/CD to the Next Level and Achieves Unparalleled Velocity With Feature Flags

About Tyler Technologies

Tyler Technologies (NYSE: TYL) is a leading provider of end-to-end information management solutions and services for the public sector. Tyler partners with and empowers clients to become more efficient, more accessible, and more responsive to the needs of their constituents. Tyler Technologies has an annual revenue of $1 billion, with over 37,000 installations across 12,000 sites and more than 6,600 team members.

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I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to tell somebody how satisfied we are with Harness – they’ve been a great partner. That we continue to invest in additional solutions just emphasizes how happy we are with the relationship.

Mike Teeters | Sr. Product Manager, Corporate Development | Tyler Technologies

CI/CD Wasn’t Going Far Enough

One of Tyler Technologies’ strategic initiatives is moving from a traditional software delivery model to a cloud-based delivery model. A key benefit for all stakeholders with this change is in having a single product version to support, instead of multiple versions across different customer installs. Since customers are always on the latest version, the challenge is how to deliver new features, rather than how to deploy the latest release.

Before introducing Harness for CI/CD, Tyler Tech deployment teams often used “big bang” or “rocket launch” releases: A broad set of functionality was bundled together on a periodic basis for a release, with a few consequences. First, large releases concentrated risk into a single deployment, so extensive testing was required prior to release to avoid any negative impact in production. Second, the larger releases required coordination between multiple Tyler teams to ensure a smooth deployment experience, which increased the number of personnel involved. Third, multiple Tyler product teams had to coordinate development roadmaps and release management activities, with limited flexibility in terms of scope and timing.

The shift to the cloud enabled Tyler Tech to try a new approach: decoupling deployment and release. Tyler Tech product teams were asking for more control over feature release and exposure, instead of deployment being the end-all-be-all. Tyler’s Corporate Development team began reviewing build and partner approaches that would allow product teams to deploy and release on their own schedule.

As part of the Corporate Development team, Mike Teeters is responsible for supporting that transition to the cloud, and to answer important questions such as “how can UX, Development, and Product do their jobs better?” Mike helps internal teams match technology solutions to their challenges, and as a Product Manager, who better to understand the challenges and the desired outcome for Tyler Tech? In this case, Mike was charged with evaluating deploy-and-release options.

To take the next step in leveling up and increasing the velocity and control in their software delivery process, a solution needed to achieve the following:

  • Mitigate the risk built up in each release.
  • Give product teams greater control over the release cadence.
  • Create more atomic feature sets that product teams could apply their own risk management to.
  • Have new functionality in production and control who has access to it.
  • Allow sales to demonstrate features even if not fully ready.
  • Release feature variations to support A/B testing and make product decisions.

Bringing Together Velocity and Control in the Cloud

The evaluation process quickly identified feature flagging as a necessary part of the toolkit. Tyler Tech was already using Harness for CI/CD deployment pipeline management, so Harness Feature Flags quickly became a focus point. Harness Feature Flags built on their trust in the deployment platform and the strong partnership between the two organizations.

Achieving their desired outcomes was certainly possible with a few solutions, so what made Harness Feature Flags the right fit? First, given that their primary use case was giving product teams more control over the release cadence and feature exposure to customers, it made sense to expand use of the platform. Second, broadening platform access also simplified internal adoption. It was a logical next step to state “there’s new functionality on the platform you’re already using” instead of “we have a new point solution to bring into our process.” Third, Tyler Tech sees CI/CD and feature flags being part of the same software delivery process. What better way to help Product, Engineering, and Deployment work better together than having a unified delivery pipeline where both sides win?

Internally, Tyler Tech already had teams using other feature flag tooling from an acquisition. As they evaluated their current tools and Harness, it was important that the tool of choice met all of their core feature management requirements, plus had added capabilities that aligned well with the Tyler Tech deployment solution. It was important that the whole team could work on the same platform and extend their existing CI/CD process. After all, Tyler Tech saw feature flags as a natural extension of CI/CD, so it only made sense.

In the end, Tyler Tech chose to expand their partnership with Harness by selecting Harness Feature Flags to advance their software delivery process. Why Harness? It came down to three things:

●  Harness Feature Flags was natively integrated into their CI/CD process. Tyler Tech was already leveraging the Harness platform for CI/CD, and it was appealing to simply roll out new functionality on the same platform everyone was already using, and avoiding the risk of having multiple systems in their mission-critical software delivery pipeline.

●  The responsive customer account team made it easy and comfortable to work with Harness. Across Sales, Customer Success, and Product, Tyler Tech felt well-supported and like their needs were attended to. And, when Tyler Tech needed to make adjustments because of business realities, the Harness team made it a fluid and painless process.

●  It feels like a strong and evolving partnership. When Tyler Tech started down the path with Harness, they felt good about it. And now, they appreciate that all the things Harness did well, it continues to do, reinforcing that Harness is the right technology partner. And, it doesn’t hurt that both organizations have an engineering-oriented culture!

Tyler Tech may be early on in their feature flag journey, but they are excited about the new reality it will bring to their rapidly evolving organization. Moving to the cloud is one thing, but maximizing all of the benefits of doing so is entirely another. By working with technology partners like Harness, Tyler Tech is confident that they’ll be able to deliver on their core mission and continue to meet the evolving needs of their stakeholders and customers. For Tyler Tech, it’s just the beginning of a new era in software delivery.

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