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STAREast keynotes: Continuous integration and documentation in Agile

Agile practices, including continuous integration and documentation in agile environments, were the kick-off topics at STAREast in Orlando, Fla., today.

I’ve been sitting here in the second row of a ballroom at the STAREast conference with the Rebel Alliance. We’ve been listening to two keynote speakers, Jeff Payne and Elisabeth Hendrickson. 

Payne started his presentation — “You Can’t Test Quality into Your Systems” — talking about some of the changes we’re seeing in development, asking if they were fads or trends.  Fads come and go, but trends “change the way we work,” he said. Obviously, agile development is one of the trends that he mentioned and we are hearing about a lot in the industry.

“Continuous integration is HOT,” said Payne as he spoke about SecureCI, which is an open source tool which integrates several other opensource tools. Continuous integration is the “hub” that ties together development, test, release engineering and management.

Payne quipped that developers originally made up agile as “retaliation of quality people” to get auditors out of their hair. Then the developers found out that, indeed, they’re not off the hook for unit testing and documentation! There’s actually a lot of “rigor” in agile done right. Payne said that people often think that agile means “no documentation.” A common misconception is that you can’t use an agile approach when documentation is required due to regulation. However, if documentation is a requirement, then that documentation is included as a high-priority story in agile.  Payne gave an example of a project in which the documentation was stellar, impressing the ranks. When they asked about the methodology, they were told “agile!”

Hendrickson spoke next on “Agile Testing: Uncertainty, Risk, and Why It All Works.”

When describing documentation, Hendrickson hopped all over the stage imitating all the various documentation that needs to be updated in traditional environments. As she described her frustrations, she joked about a product she once tested using Excel as the documentation tool: “I found more bugs in Excel than in the product I was actually testing.” She described the documentation process as “exhausting.”

One of the concepts used to boost documentation efficiency, Hendrickson said, is Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD). With ATDD we get the shared understanding of what we’re building and can automate expectations.  Hendrickson talked of an “executable specification” saying: “We finally can actually do it. We have real evidence, executed running testing features.” ATDD provides leveraged documentation resulting in executable requirements.

Hendrickson described how much more quickly feedback is received with continuous integration and automated regression. “The automated system level documentation reduces the feedback latency to the time the developer checks in code until there is evidence that the code works.” 

Both keynote speakers seem to agree that they’re seeing usage of agile development growing rapidly. Learning how to take advantage of continuous integration and using documentation efficiently are two practices that they see adding to the success of agile projects.

For more STAREast coverage, check out these links:
James Bach – The buccaneer tester
STAREast keynotes: Continuous integration and documentation in Agile
STAREast: Is your software development organization agile?

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