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How Does CI Complement Other Development Practices?

The practice of CI complements other software development practices, such as developer testing, adherence to coding standards, refactoring, and small releases. It doesn't matter if you are using RUP, XP, RUP with XP, SCRUM, Crystal, or any other methodology. The following list identifies how the practice of CI works with and improves these practices.

  • Developer testing—Developers who write tests most often use some xUnit-based framework such as JUnit or NUnit. These tests can be automatically executed from the build scripts. Since the practice of CI advocates that builds be run any time a change is made to the software, and that the automated tests are a part of these builds, CI enables automated regression tests to be run on the entire code base whenever a change is applied to the software.
  • Coding standard adherence—A coding standard is the set of guidelines that developers must adhere to on a project. On many projects, ensuring adherence is largely a manual process that is performed by a code review. CI can run a build script to report on adherence to the coding standards by running a suite of automated static analysis tools that inspect the source code against the established standard whenever a change is applied.
  • Refactoring—As Fowler states, refactoring is "the process of changing the software system in such a way that it does not alter the external behavior of the code yet improves its internal structure."5 Among other benefits, this makes the code easier to maintain. CI can assist with refactoring by running inspection tools that identify potential problem areas at every build.
  • Small releases—This practice allows testers and users to get working software to use and review as often as required. CI works very well with this practice, because software integration is occurring many times a day and a release is available at virtually any time. Once a CI system is in place, a release can be generated with minimal effort.
  • Collective ownership—Any developer can work on any part of the software system. This prevents "knowledge silos," where there is only one person who has knowledge of a particular area of the system. The practice of CI can help with collective ownership by ensuring adherence to coding standards and the running of regression tests on a continual basis.
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