July 2008 Entries

Here is my Great Firewall. I don't think any bad guys can get pass Qui-Gon and ObeVan

Firewall1 Firewall2

Today we are solving business problems by developing software applications based on customer requirements. But how much time in a project goes to the way of actually solving business problems? Are we still fiddling with the unending setup, environmental, infrastructure, management etc issues that hold us writing usefull code and solving actual customer problems?

Everybody knows that time is money,  and yet I have seen examples around that some basic things in the name of automation hasn't been done. There are easy ways to save time and money by implementing some of the things before thand. Here is my list:
1- Source Code Control
I don't think that there is software development company out there who is not using a for of source control system. Be it Subversion, Team Foundation Server, GIT or a project on Sourceforge.net everyone uses it. Even the toy projects that we develop at home are kept on our own source control servers.
2- Unit Testing and coverage
Unit testing is required what ever the language you are using, but unit test alone is not enough; the coverage should also be good. Karl Seguin on www.codebetter.com explained it well on Chapter 5 of his free book "Foundations of Programming":
Unit Tests aren't only about mitigating high-risk changes. In my programming life, I've been responsible for major bugs caused from seemingly low-risk changes as well. The point is that I can make a fundamental or minor change to our system, right click the solution, select "Run Tests" and within 2 minutes know where we stand.
3- Continues Integration and monitoring
If you do not compile at least every night and run unit tests to see where you are; you are in deep s**t. To perfect world would be to compile at every check-in and pin point the scapegoat but it may not be applicable if you are short of computing resources.
4- Documentation
At least a database design doco and a requirements specification should be a must have for a poject. The API documentation can be generated out of the code if it is properly commented. An automatised database design process or a project wiki should give enough information for the exisiting and new starter developers. Designing the system with a UML tool and producing the requirements documentation out of these would be preferable.
5- Bug reporting and change requests management procedures
Once released a product out to the wild, the issues and bugs will rain like cats and dogs. Having a good bug reporting system may save you some dollars. Managing them should also be automatised with notification systems. Change requests might be prioritised automatically into releases.
6-  Bug fix and source control integration
Some changes to the source code may need to be attached to a bug or issue so that PM can what bug is resolved with what piece of code.
7- Logging software errors
Having a system ready to use to log the errors in the software may save you some time. As this is a system that needs to be built, it can be inherited from a previous project. If you are building this for the first time, make sure that its reusability is high and the API is well documented.
8- Implementing database and its changes fast and automated
One area that code generators and latest ORM wave is trying to solve for you. Are you utilising any of these to manage your databases and their change requests? Well, you should. Also having your database design on a tool like Erwin or using the latest Visual Studio DBDude mightt help you to manage the database easily.
9- Test, UAT, release procedures
Internal regression tests, user acceptance tests and release procedures are also another area. During the development of your project, you might have a wiki for developers to spell out the test scenarios and later use these for regression tests, or give them to UAT people to execute. Releases should also be inline with these test scenarios and with every release (major or minor) a new version of test scenarios should be distributed to the parties. If you automate this into your compile-unit test-package-release cycle, you will be the king.
10- Communication procedures
Communication is the most important thing in a project team but too much of it will bore you. A translater between the customer and developers and also another translater between the developers and project manager might be necessary. Short meetings and outcomes of items above may be used for reporting and scheduling tasks. I am not telling to isolate developers totaly, they are free to talk with any stakeholder of the project. Those interfaces are realy time savers when it comes to sign-off' of requirements documentation or change requests approval.

So what do you think? What else can be automatised to speed up the development process?


About me

Hi, my name is Gurkan Yeniceri. I am a software engineer with 8 years of experience in both public and private sectors. I have been generally writing about software engineering and Microsoft technologies since March 2005 on this site.
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