Improving software health, security, and operational maturity are continuous programs—you’re never really “done” maintaining standards of quality. But what if specific parts of that program feel more urgent? Maybe you want to ensure all software has a README file attached, and at least 1 reviewer assigned... by next month? Hey, you gotta start somewhere! Or what if you have a truly short-term program that will eventually come to a close, like migrating to Kubernetes or EOLing unsupported software?
You might look to Internal Developer Portals (IDP) to influence long-term change, but Cortex was built to actively drive both long and short-term engineering initiatives. Our Initiatives feature lets you:
- Set deadlines for specific parts of a software scorecard
- Set deadlines for the entirety of a short-term project
- Ensure that everyone on the team has visibility into their action items and deadlines through integrations with Jira and Slack
What are Initiatives (and how do they relate to Scorecards)?
Before diving further into Initiatives, it's worthwhile talking about Scorecards. Scorecards let teams set tiered standards for things like software maturity, production readiness, security, and more. Much more, actually—since anything your organization considers a useful standard to apply to one or more types of software, can be used to build a Scorecard.
In the below Onboarding Scorecard, Cortex pulls from multiple different integrations with SDLC tooling that a customer already has, to centralize standards of security, incident management, and production readiness. What's more, those tools are constantly checked by Cortex to dynamically score software based on rule set. Rules can be binary (README attached), or variable (no more than 5 open vulnerabilities), making the continuous monitoring element of Cortex scorecards particularly useful.
By the way, now would be a good time to check out our blog post to learn about the top three scorecards we recommend for every team.
Now, the above "rules" might feel like a daunting list of requirements for your team. Where do they begin? As mentioned above, you can use the Cortex Initiatives features to carve off parts of this scorecard that feel more urgent—or achievable in a short period of time—and assign a deadline. This make improvement programs feel more achievable, without overwhelming developers. When you create an Initiative, you choose one or more requirements that you want specific software or owners to meet by a certain date. You can associate Initiatives with individual software components, groups, or even entire product lines—thereby assigning action to the owner of any affected component. Initiatives help engineers quickly see what they need to do by when, weighted against their other priorities.
For example, the below Initiative is simply asking for any software in the “Playback” group to have a set Git repo by 12/31/23. That's it. Just one rule (which will help the developer achieve "Bronze" ranking in the above scorecard) is all that's needed. Owners of software in that group will receive alerts in Slack, and be able to view exact next steps as prioritized actions in their Developer Homepage.
Some examples of when you might use an Initiative include:
- Team-wide project to incrementally improve quality of existing software
- Perform a system migration and ensuring that all services are migrated over
- Launching a product where services need to meet reliability standards by the launch date
- Swapping tools and tracking that all services are using the new tooling
- Rapidly patching a security vulnerability that affects many services
Initiatives have many benefits:
- Reduce cognitive load for developers that already have plenty of tasks to juggle
- Eliminate the need for dedicated project managers—chasing action is never an efficient use of time
- Reduce status stand ups and providing a live view of progress in just a few clicks
- Mitigate risk by helping you act on known security gaps or exposures sooner
- Ensure you never file another EOL exemption request from accidentally missed deadlines
How do Initiatives drive progress while improving productivity?
Juggling developer happiness, productivity and progress to goals is a constant balancing act. Cortex unites all three goals with features to reduce cognitive load while promoting action.
As our first example, you can see below that once you’ve created an Initiative, you’ll immediately see which services are passing or failing the objectives as well as your completion percentage.
When developers log into Cortex, they’ll also see tasks that track toward Initiatives in their Action Items, sorted by deadline.
Slack and Jira integrations
Cortex has bi-directional integrations with apps like Slack and Jira, so even if developers aren’t checking Cortex every day, Initiatives will still help project-manage and drive action against deadlines.
When you create an Initiative, you have the option of automatically creating linked issues in Jira to track completion.
Cortex will also ping engineers on Slack when the Initiative is first created and when the Initiative deadline is coming up. Now nobody has to be the bad guy.
Internal Developer Portals as your one-stop-shop
An IDP is a great way to ensure that your engineering teams have all the tools and processes they need to do their best work. With a feature like Initiatives, your IDP becomes even more than that: It’s a system of record, system of improvement, and project manager all in one—supporting developers in making progress on specific objectives, no matter how small or large.