Developing teams are consistently under pressure to adapt to new trends and ensure that they are using the best processes possible to support their agile initiatives. As software development and release becomes more complex, there are a number of ways that organizations can achieve their goals, but it will be up to them to determine what path to go down depending on staff capabilities and what types of tools are available to improve defect management.
There are two practices that developers are increasingly relying on: merging and branching. These processes go hand-in-hand and can significantly impact projects when facilitated effectively. Let's take a look at how strong merging and branching capabilities can help keep developers happy and improve applications overall.
Different Flavors of Merging and Branching
Every project and development team is different, and there are a number of options available to support these various requirements. With branching, for example, teams could choose to leverage release branching, feature branching and task branching. Atlassian noted that branching enables developers to easily collaborate in a central code base without affecting other active elements, and the branch they make will depend on what element they want to work on. This capability means that teams can experiment independently from the main code line and implement any changes that would be beneficial to the overall project.
Once the branch's objectives are complete, like finishing a feature, for example, it's time to move the elements back to the main source line. The type of merge that happens will depend on which branch was leveraged, and bug-fix aggregation may be required to simplify software testing lifecycle when this fuse happens.
"Branches tend to be short-lived, making them easier to merge and more flexible across the code base," Atlassian stated. "Between the ability to frequently and automatically merge branches as part of continuous integration (CI), and the fact that short-lived branches simply contain fewer changes, 'merge hell' becomes is a thing of the past for teams using Git and Mercurial."
Faster, More Streamlined Development
For many developer teams, the risks of branching and merging are likely apparent, especially in terms of tracking versions and ensuring that everything lines up appropriately. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can boost their capabilities while ensuring that their processes are faster and more streamlined than ever. Zero Turnaround noted that gatekeeper and branch updating solutions will help push the merge only after a successful build, guaranteeing that the job is finished and that the project is not broken if the merge is sent to the shared code repository. This eliminates the chance that QA teams must go back and make critical changes to functionality and provides developers with the solutions they require to stay on schedule.
Categorizing defects and keeping track of versions would also benefit from using the best test management software. These solutions can easily archive test cases and priorities across projects, even if branches exist. This will help developers and QA teams keep all activities in line and ensure that everyone is always on the same page. With these capabilities, developers will be significantly happier and will be better able to keep up with stakeholder and user demands.
Leverage All Strategies that Make Sense
We know that there are numerous branching approaches and tools that developers to use, but now it's imperative to create a solution that will make the most sense for your team. Los Techies contributor Derick Bailey noted that having multiple branching strategies will help create new opportunities to sustain or improve team performance and easily solve complex problems. For this reason, it will be essential for teams to pair the best tools and approaches that will help ease their branching and merging practices.
"You need to consider a team's organization, the system's architecture, etc," Bailey wrote. "These, together with the rest of the circumstances that create the context in which you work, will play into which branching strategies you decide to use, when. In the end, the goal is to provide a sandbox for the context in which code is being written. Understanding the available options, when each option is best suited to the situation at hand and the cost of these options will help you in deciding how and when to branch."
Learn more on how to get creative with a branching model for each of your release streams, and how to manage multiple releases in the upcoming Atassian Summit session–Creative Branching Models for Multiple Release Streams.