The Key Benefits of Continuous Integration

There’s a difference between standard practices and best practices. Standard practices are what everyone does, while best practices can serve as a differentiator. In the software development industry, continuous integration is going the extra-mile. For those who don’t know, continuous integration takes a developer’s work and blends it together with a larger body of code. It allows for teams across the world to work independently from each other without impacting the collective work. Continuous integration may not be exciting as creating a new feature, but is vital in bringing the software to life. Here are a few reasons why continuous integration drives software to be the best it can be.

It Keeps Everyone Honest – A common statement heard within the software development industry is “It works on my machine! I don’t know why it won’t work on yours!” With continuous integration, this problem becomes eliminated. Once code reaches a repository, continuous integration picks it up and builds it on a server. If it doesn’t build, an email explaining why the code has failed gets sent to whoever uploaded it. This allows the developer to repair the issue and try again. We think you can see why this cuts down on the finger pointing!

Consistency – As mentioned above, continuous integration lets developers know if their work is breaking the work of others. This allows every team member to work within the same set of rules as everyone else. If everyone is playing on the same field, then consistency is achieved. Continuous integration tests to make sure code will work in a production environment the same way it works in a local environment. If it functions properly on both and everyone is working under this standard, then the process goes a lot smoother and with less hiccups along the way.

Power for Unit Tests – The real power of continuous integration comes when you have good unit tests built. This is because unit tests check the functionality of the code that has been written and makes sure that all of the functionality still works after the new code has been added to the pool of code. The combination of the two creates a powerhouse of protocol that makes code truly shine. For more about unit tests and how to get started with them, check out this recent post.

Saves Time – Massive amounts of time is saved when implementing continuous integration. This is because many errors are discovered through the process of continuous integration and unit testing that might otherwise only be caught with manually testing the software. The integration server is also more efficient in finding the errors from end-to-end compared to a human, meaning many mistakes can be found and dealt with quickly without the need for full-regression testing from a QA. There’s no need to go back and go over the code line by line anymore when continuous integration and good unit tests can decipher what needs to be fixed along the way.

Continuous integration is yet another cog in the wheel of agile software development. It can help audit the work of developers so the team can know who needs to fix their slip up. Continuous integration also provides consistency so all team members are working within the same set of parameters. When paired with good unit tests, it can ensure that everything stays functional throughout the project. Finally, continuous integration helps to save time by discovering errors along the way with more accuracy as opposed to manually going back and looking for issues line for line across the entire piece of software. It may seem like this is a standard, however, not all developers take this approach to their projects. At Small Footprint, we feel continuous integration is just one of the best practices that truly sets us apart and helps to get things done.

Originally on the Small Footprint website.

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