Monday, May 31, 2010

Holistic view of Continuous Integration & Build (elements of CIB) – Part 2 of 9

In the last episode (e.g., 1 of 9) of this series, I introduced the topic of Continuous Integration and Build (CIB). In this episode, I will introduce the elements of CIB. The key elements involve four areas: a mindset change to thinking more continuously; the entrance criteria that makes the CIB process perform; the components to initiate an effective CIB process; and finally key infrastructure to enable the CIB process. Let us walk through these areas at a high-level.

An Agile mindset merges with the CM mindset. 
  • A very interesting cultural shift occurs when the concept of “continuous” is ingrained in the culture and method. Agile embraces a mindset of continuous change where the build process moves from an event-based integration process to a continuous integration process. In other words, no one needs to hold onto large amounts of changes for a major integration effort or declare that builds will occur nightly, weekly, even hourly.

The entrance criteria for an effective and lean continuous integration and build process include:
  • The ability to specify the right ‘bite-size’ level of story or requirements tasks that represent changes that allow for granular and frequent code changes. This implies that the Agile team can understand the stories well enough to divide them up in small and consumable tasks which allow the programmer to make changes frequently and incrementally.
The key components to initiate an effective continuous integration and build process include:
  • Right-size the branching strategy that reduces risk yet ensures code stability where people can work in a stable workspace without being impact by changes of others on a regular basis.
  • Shift in roles and responsibilities of who performs merging and building.
  • Minimize the merge process to reduce work for development
  • Emphasize building in general and understanding the build levels so it is clear who the target of the build is for. Builds can occur within a private workspace and within shared branches like the mainline or project branches.
  • Test with teeth by establishing and conducting unit testing at the individual programmer level and then smoke test after the integration build.
Underneath all of this, there is a need for infrastructure to support a continuous integration and build process. The two primary elements of this include:
  • CM version control system that has the capability of establishing the desired branching strategy, has an automated and intelligent merging capability, and can integrate with continuous integration and build tools.
  • Continuous integration and build tool that supports an automated build process. There are many continuous integration and build tools on the marketing ranging from vendor products to open source and freeware tools.
Let’s delve deeper into each area. Consider reading the next episode which focuses on the Agile and CM Mindsets (Part 3 of 9) and what this means in an Continuous Integration and Build process.

Note: If you started with this entry (Part 2), consider reading part 1, Holistic view of Continuous Integration & Build – Part 1 of 9

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Holistic view of Continuous Integration & Build – Part 1 of 9

As you may know, the term CIB (or continuous integration and build) refers to the process of integrating code frequently (or on-demand) to reduce large integrations, complexity, and pain in the future and to make functional software readily available for testing and the customer. It provides development with immediate feedback on the success or failure of changes via an integration, full build, and smoke test of the product and reduces large integration efforts.
Continuous integration and build moves the build process from an event-based integration process to a continuous integration process. This then moves us away from the infrequent and often painful integrations (a.k.a., merges) and move to a continuous integration and build process that becomes part of the team’s daily activities. This also marks a significant increase in check-outs, merges, check-ins, and builds.

The benefits of CIB include:
  • Integration ensures the integrity of your code baseline.
  • Building frequently lets you and the customer know where things stand as a mark of value delivered.
  • Continuous integration raises merging issues to the forefront more quickly for more expedient resolution.
  • Frequent builds have fewer changed files which reduces the amount of time on debugging build issues and painful integrations.
  • Working functionality provides continuous feedback.
  • Can be applied to any project methodology (Agile, Waterfall, Hybrid, etc.)
The challenges of CIB include:
  • It is often easier said than done
  • It requires a focus on areas broader than most folks realize (beyond just merge and build)
  • May cause more churn than progress if not managed well
  • Requires a mindset change, thinking in smaller units, bite-size tasks and continuous change
  • Moves from event-driven model with ceremony to a continuous change model
  • Adds stress and load to CM and build tools
So what are some key elements of focus for CIB?  Learn about these elements in part 2 of the CIB series on Elements of Continuous Integration and Build.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Knight bringing Agile to the Day

Once upon a time, a Knight challenged the King saying that we should provide people with what they need and not what we want to provide them. Instead of asking people for all of their needs now and not deliver until a year later, we should deliver their more important needs in shorter time periods to ensure we provide them with their needs sooner and then allow them to adapt to their needs as life changes around them.

The Knight learned that the marketplace and the customers therein drove the real needs. This gets to the heart of providing business value, value that the customer perceives, value that can change in this ever-changing world.

As the Agile Manifesto (the Knight's creed) says, Agile values working software over comprehensive documentation. Working software is where the customer sees the value. The “right” amount of documentation, neither too comprehensive nor too little, can lead us to working software more quickly.

Individuals and interactions have more value than processes and tools. This does not mean that processes and tools are not important, it is just that defined processes and tools should not determine how the individuals should interact to get their work done.

Customer collaboration is valued over contract negotiations since Agile values the continuous interaction with customers to ensure we are constantly reducing the risk and increasing the certainty of delivering what the customer really needs.

And finally, responding to change over following a plan allows us to adapt to change with collaborative control that ensures the change is both welcome, understood, and continuously validated.

Agile embraces change and accepts the fact that life is uncertain. By providing methods and techniques to minimize risk and increase certainty, this ensures we close the gap between what the customer actually wants and what we end up delivering.

With that, the Knight brought Agile into the day and people into the light.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cloudy with a chance of Agility - CM predictions for 2010

As we gaze in the horizon, what do we think will be hot in the CM landscape and improve our working lives? What might be some of the latest trends in the industry? My prediction is the CM weather report will be “Cloudy with a chance of Agility”. My predictions will focus on:

  • Agile in the forefront of CM
  • Extending the CM reach into ALM and beyond
  • CM “in the Clouds”
Prediction #1: Agile in the forefront of CM
I predict that we will continue to see a stronger focus on agility in the way we approach and deploy CM. This is because Agile methods are continuing to increase in adoption. With the need to adapt and change, comes the need for CM that is both lean, yet well integrated to support the Agile processes. We'll see CM tools cater more to Agile. We'll see more publications focusing on CM and Agile.

Prediction #2: Extending the CM reach into ALM and beyond
As we continue into the future, we will see CM extending into the ALM space and then see ALM extended into a more unified approach. Integration across engineering areas helps teams streamline their processes and reduces the effort of implementation and maintenance of manual integrations. We'll see Agile ALM solutions with CM as its core for organizations looking to improve and scale their Agile processes while still maintaining control. And we may see more holistic unified change and release management solutions

Prediction #3: CM “in the Clouds”
As we looking into 2010 and the future, there may be two focus areas relating to the “Cloud”. The first is ensuring that there is configuration management of the Cloud infrastructure and the second is that there will be more of a focus on hosted CM services in the clouds. Companies are looking for software as a service (SAAS) solutions to limit their infrastructure debt, but these environments also require solid configuration management so the customers of the SAAS solutions can feel confident that changes within these environments will be effectively managed. The second is providing a CM service for software development in the clouds. This way development teams do not need to incur the cost and effort of setting up a CM environment and maintaining it, but instead use a CM environment in the clouds with built in version control, build management, and defect tracking tools that already exist.

As we look into 2010, conditions may get cloudy but not in the meteorological sense. Companies are looking for “software as a service” (SAAS) solutions to limit their technology debt, but will want to ensure the infrastructure is well managed. Agility will continue to show up in various forms in both the Configuration Management (CM) and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) contexts. Also, books such as “Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams” and blogs will help CM and Agile teams understand and adapt to Agile methods. Whether your forecast is sunny or cloudy (or both), consider flexibility, adaptability, and agility in driving your business! Have a productive 2010!!!

To read the full article on this, feel free to visit:

What are your thoughts on where CM is moving to in 2010?