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Integration
Software development is full of best practices which are often talked about but seem to be rarely done. One of the most basic, and valuable, of these is a fully automated build and test process that allows a team to build and test their software many times a day. The idea of a daily build has been talked about a lot. EWI Technologies recommends it as a best practice and it's been long known as a feature of the Microsoft development approach. We agree with the XP community, however, in saying that daily builds are a minimum. A fully automated process that allows you to build several times a day is both achievable and well worth the effort.
 
We are using the term Continuous Integration, a term used as one of the practices of XP (Extreme Programming). However we recognize that the practice has been around for a long time and is used by plenty of folks that would never consider XP for their work. We've been using XP as a touchstone in our software development process and that influences a lot of our terminology and practices. However you can use continuous integration without using any other parts of XP - indeed we think it's an essential part of any competent software development activity.

There are several parts to making an automated daily build work
  • Keep a single place where all the source code lives and where anyone can obtain the current sources from (and previous versions)
  • Automate the build process so that anyone can use a single command to build the system from the sources
  • Automate the testing so that you can run a good suite of tests on the system at any time with a single command
  • Make sure anyone can get a current executable which you are confident is the best executable so far.
All of this takes a certain amount of discipline. We've found that it takes a lot of energy to introduce it into a project. We've also found that once installed, it doesn't take too much effort to keep it up.
 
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