Agile vs. CI/CD vs. DevOps—Everything you need to know

Agile. CI/CD. DevOps. We all hear these terms constantly. But what do they really mean, and when should you use them?

Agile. CI/CD. DevOps. We all hear these terms constantly. But what do they really mean, and when should you use them?

January 19, 2021
Tamas Cser

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Agile. CI/CD. DevOps. We all hear these terms constantly. But what do they really mean, and when should you use them?
Agile. CI/CD. DevOps. We all hear these terms constantly. But what do they really mean, and when should you use them?

Agile, CI/CD and DevOps are three frequently used terms in the software testing and development industry. In this article, we highlight the differences between them and explain when to use each practice. By the time you finish reading, you’ll understand the intended purpose of each practice and be in a position to achieve transformative results.


Agile is a practice that focuses on constantly achieving small, manageable increments of a given project via iterative testing and development. It follows the 12 principles laid out in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and leverages incremental methods such as Kanban, Scrum, Lean Development and Extreme Programming (XP).

Organizations started adopting Agile development because the traditional waterfall approach couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced era of continuous technological development. Dynamic processes require the ability to adapt to new conditions on the fly, which resulted in the birth of Agile. The core idea behind the methodology was to break development down into ‘bite-sized tasks,’ giving everyone the ability to focus better and deliver more value. 

Agile also promotes iterative feedback cycles, cross-functional collaboration, and self-organizing teams that use tools and processes tailored to particular tasks. It removes the communication silos between teams and encourages them to build solutions together. Developers are just as involved in the latter stages of the software lifecycle as testers. Moreover, all development sprints rely on user feedback to enhance the quality of the ongoing project. 

All of that makes Agile perfect for scenarios where both technical and entire requirements evolve as the project advances. The methodology is ideal for enhancing feedback loops and achieving fast-paced innovation. Agile has become one of the most widely used development methods precisely because it supports this. Companies can even integrate some automated processes in Agile stages to help enhance integration, like code management and automation testing.

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CI/CD Is a set of practices and operating principles that engineering and development teams use to deliver code changes reliably.

CI (Continuous Integration)

CI is an engineering methodology in which people on the development team integrate code changes into a ‘shared source code’ repository at high frequency. Typically, teams strive to integrate code multiple times daily (in some cases, even hourly) and conduct unit tests on every code modification. An automatic build is used to verify every update pushed to the repository, enabling developers to identify issues and resolve bugs quickly.

The key aim of continuous integration is to develop a consistent strategy to create and test software automatically. It certifies that a change, regardless of which developer made it, is suitable for the overall code base. CI allows developers to address the problems they experience when composing, testing, publishing, delivering, and integrating software programs for end-users. 

As integration is usually seen as a resource- and time-consuming activity, CI techniques may rely on automation tools. Developers can use these tools to reduce the time required for executing builds and tests. Continuous integration’s big-picture objective is to create a software-defined lifecycle that reduces the effort required to create and integrate. What’s more, CI can also help detect code-related glitches in the initial phases of a software-defined lifecycle.

CD (Continuous Delivery)

CD is a group of processes to ensure the code remains in a deployable state. It includes all continuous testing activities and continuous integration, plus a human touch to enhance software quality. CD aims to ensure that all code changes, whether configuration modifications, bug fixes, or feature upgrades, can be deployed to production.

The process requires a ‘staging area’ where developers can verify and review code changes manually. Once that’s done, you can give your software a green light for production release. In technical terms, you transfer the build to the production environment for UAT (user acceptance testing) before deployment. The goal? To make high-quality deployments recurring events that can be performed on demand. It doesn’t matter whether the deployment is for a complicated production environment, an embedded system, or a large-scale embedded system. 

CD can also refer to continuous deployment whereby every change made by a development team member automatically passes through the pipeline. After going through the test stages, you release the updated version of the software to production. No manual verification is required for this CD type as automated testing is integrated throughout the processes (from development to release). Continuous deployment aims to enable teams to make various program deployments without stressing over a major release. 

CI/CD requires an investment in the right tools, especially test automation. Your CI/CD efforts are bound to fall flat unless you employ an optimal tool stack.


DevOps is essentially a collaborative culture where certain ideas, technologies, processes, and tools are used to streamline software development. It originated from the concept that the distinction between Dev, QA, and Ops teams is always inefficient. This critical cultural shift emphasizes the value of being cross-functional at all stages of software production. It helps prevent the blame game, i.e., Devs blame the QAs for bugs and Ops blame Devs and QAs for system crashes.

DevOps focuses on merging operations and development roles to achieve common business objectives. Adopting this approach helps deliver a more Agile, efficient, and organized production process through a shared culture and processes. However, successful DevOps implementation also requires the development of frameworks to automate large parts of the deployment and development pipeline. This is the logical endpoint of CI/CD. This is where teams can consider emerging fields like AIOps (artificial intelligence for IT operations) in the development and operations environments. 

The practice can be a lifesaver when the operations team is struggling to keep up with development. Having the teams work in a DevOps culture also makes it easy to integrate automation and introduce continuous delivery tools. Besides automation, DevOps practices can also refer to code ownership, continuous improvement, and incremental changes.

So, What’s the Difference Between the Three Practices?

There’s not much difference between Agile, CI/CD, and DevOps except what each practice entails.

Agile surrounds both CI/CD and DevOps with the expectation that developers can make small incremental updates to a service or application. CI/CD is a DevOps technique that simplifies your Agile development by using the right tools to speed up deployment. DevOps extends your Agile development all the way into production, using practices that are not present in Agile’s workflows. For instance, using the right tools and cross-functional collaboration to improve software testing, development, and release. 

All that said, each practice helps teams create better quality software in less time. So, any QA engineer or developer using one practice should be aware of the others. If you plan to move from Agile to CI/CD or DevOps, make sure the rest of your company is prepared as well. Functions like support, marketing, and documentation will have to adapt to the new span of releases. Also, they’ll have to make sure they’re not missing out on changes that could significantly impact the customer experience.

How can Functionize help?

Functionize provides a suite of intelligent test automation tools powered by machine learning. We designed these to meet all the requirements of modern software projects. Creating new tests is a cinch, which makes Functionize ideal for Agile teams. You can run tests automatically with our advanced orchestrations, perfect for CI/CD. And you can run all your tests against your production environment. This is just what your DevOps team needs. To learn more, book a live demo today.