Optimization glossary

Feature management

What is feature management?

Feature management refers to the process of developing, delivering, and optimizing new features for a product.   

It enables teams to release features to specific users or groups, test new features, and control the user experience. It involves the management of feature flags, which are toggles that allow developers to turn features on and off without requiring code changes.   

You can test how each feature performs before releasing it into production, providing you with the confidence you need that your new feature will work as expected when it’s rolled out.  

Feature Management is especially useful in today's highly competitive automation landscape, where product teams must rapidly launch new features to stay ahead of the competition. It is important to take control of the release process and get out new features gradually and only to specific subsets of end-users, rather than all at once. This allows for controlled feature rollouts and testing in real-time, ensuring that user experience and customer engagement are not negatively impacted.  

What are the best practices for implementing feature management? 

By following the below practices, you can optimize your feature management process for efficiency. 
Govern: Establish clear guidelines, naming conventions, and ownership for feature flags. Regularly review and update to avoid the accumulation of unused ones. 
Make it secure: Implement proper access controls and consider privacy regulations. Conduct security audits to ensure the system is secure. 
Analyze: Optimize evaluation for minimal performance impact. Monitor and address any performance bottlenecks. 
Assess: Regularly assess and optimize system scalability. 
Collaborate: Involve relevant stakeholders and maintain open communication channels for updates and deployments. 

Feature flag lifecycle

Here’s what a feature flag lifecycle looks like: 

  • It starts with creating feature flags and how they can be defined, configured, and managed within a feature management platform. 
  • The next step is to deploy feature flags in production environments and activate them to control access to specific features. 
  • Now, monitor feature flag performance and collect analytics to gain insights into user engagement, adoption, and impact. 
  • Finally, sunset and remove feature flags once they are no longer needed, emphasizing the need for proper planning and communication. 

Types of rollout strategies

Here are some common types of feature rollout strategies: 

Phased rollouts: 

  • Gradual release of features to subsets of users in stages. 
  • Monitor user feedback and performance metrics at each phase. 

Canary testing: 

  • Limited release of features to a small group of users or segments. 
  • Evaluate performance and gather feedback before a wider release.  

Targeted rollouts: 

  • Selective release of features to specific user segments based on attributes. 
  • Enable personalized experiences and conduct controlled experimentation.  

Beta testing

  • Release features to a chosen group of users for feedback and validation. 
  • Iterate and refine features based on user feedback before a wider release. 

Dark launches: 

  • Silent release of features to the production environment without user visibility. 
  • Conduct internal testing and gradually enable the feature while monitoring.  

Percentage rollouts: 

  • Gradually increase the percentage of users exposed to the feature over time. 
  • Monitor performance to ensure a smooth rollout. 

What are the benefits of feature management?

With feature management, software development teams or product teams can deploy new features with confidence knowing that their user experience won’t be negatively impacted. Through product experimentation, product teams can be sure that new features are launched when they're ready and tested to ensure optimal performance.

Feature management brings numerous use cases and benefits to A/B testing, including:  

  • Risk mitigation: Teams can release new features gradually and monitor their impact on the user experience. This approach reduces the risk of errors or bugs that could negatively affect the user experience.  
  • Faster release cycles: If you use feature flags, it enables your team to release features quickly and safely, without requiring code changes or lengthy testing cycles with a high run time. This approach allows teams to iterate and improve their software at a faster pace.  
  • Improved user experience: By controlling the user experience, teams can deliver a personalized experience to their user base This approach increases user engagement and satisfaction, leading to higher retention rates.  
  • Data-driven development: Feature management allows teams to collect data on user behavior and feedback, enabling them to make informed decisions about feature development and optimization.  

Feature management in Optimizely

Feature management has become an essential part of the development process, particularly in the DevOps workflow. Like API management, feature management is about aligning your business and tech stack requirements. By using a feature management platform like Optimizely, development teams can streamline their testing and deployment processes. You can easily decouple code changes from feature releases, allowing for faster iteration and rollbacks if necessary.     

You also get real-time metrics and KPIs, enabling product managers to optimize their feature releases and track progress. Optimizely's command center enables you to control the entire product development lifecycle alongside feature flags, rollouts, and segmented A/B tests. This entire process of progressive delivery can be controlled without deploying any new code.  

In 2023, most teams want to build their own systems (feature toggle, feature gate, release toggle, feature bit, canary testing, etc.) or feature flag management. The internal system often leads to complexity and delivery delay as engineers must work harder to convert test winners into functioning codes. All of it just to deploy new releases and make any updates to an existing feature or roll out a new one from scratch. Using feature management tool providers that can handle different programming languages and complex challenges faced by larger engineering teams is a better option. 

So, if you’re a team looking to avoid the chaos, foster a culture of experimentation, and still increase your speed-to-market while maintaining a high level of quality, get started with our feature management solution