Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Passing the Baton from Iteration to Iteration

My experience is that with automation, branching, and the supporting process, the goals of determining the quality of an iteration and creating stable baselines can be achieved in parallel. The first step is automation. Without a high degree of automated testing, I'm not sure it makes sense to try to do this in parallel. However, with continuous integration which includes full builds and full test suite runs, there should be few if any problems at the end of the iteration.

Some might say that their automated build and test takes a very long time. That’s a whole separate topic. In the meantime, let's assume that the full automated build and test cycle takes on the order of hours.

By branching, you can start the next iteration without disturbing the previous one. If QA finds any problems, development can fix them on the previous iteration branch. At some point that branch will be declared "done." Those changes are then merged into the current iteration. At that point, there is very little if any difference between where things are and where they would have been if development had started from the "done" baseline.

The advantage here is that development did not have to stop, and you still have a stable baseline. My experience is that once a team gets into a rhythm, the amount of time spent on "touch-up" is minimal.

This also applies to iterations that become releases. The "previous iteration" branch becomes work towards the release and then hopefully soon thereafter the release itself. Meanwhile, work continues towards the next release.

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