This article shows how continuous integration can help to keep projects on track with a rapid feedback on the product status.

Author: Jared Richardson,

I did a lot of lawn mowing when I was younger. My brother and I tried to make our summer money by asking real estate agents if we could mow the lawns of their absentee clients. We’d usually land one realtor each year and they’d give us enough business to keep us busy all summer. One of the things I learned is how hard it is to cut a straight line when you’re mowing a wide yard. When I was in the middle of the yard, I felt like I was cutting a straight line, but then I’d get to the end of the row and look back to discover a crooked line. It always amazed me how something could seem so right and be so off course.

Timely Feedback

A software project can be a lot like mowing a yard. Even though we try to move in a straight line, and we think we are, later we look back and are amazed at how far the project ran off course.

Whether mowing yards or building software, we need timely feedback to help keep us on track. Looking back at completed software projects, or lawns, shows you where you missed the mark, but it’s usually too late for that project. We need feedback while we’re still in the midst of the work. I never found a good way to get that feedback for my lawn mower, but I have found a guide for software projects. I use continuous integration systems to keep my projects on track.

Continuous Integration

Mike Clark calls this type of system a “virtual build monitor”. This extra team member keeps an eye on your project and lets you know when things start getting off course. If you invest in a good automated test suite, you’ll quickly catch all sorts of errors that traditionally pull good projects off course.

The more shops I get to observe, the more I’m seeing that continuous integration plays a vital role in keeping a shop on course. In fact, these days I’m telling people that I’ve learned one of the basic, fundamental principals to keep both you and your project on target.

Do you want to make your product a great one? Do you want to be the best developer you can be? Then make a solid continuous integration system a first-class member of your team and the cornerstone of your shop. A good CI system eliminates many of the problems that prevent you from working on the product, your career and your craft.

A continuous integration system does several things automatically.
* Monitors your source code
* Compiles after every change
* Tests your compiled code
* Notifies the developers of problems as soon as they occur