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A Comprehensive Guide to Enable Continuous Integration (CI) in Agile

Any software is crucial in operating various functionalities in the organizations. It becomes tough to bring in many changes like bug reports, new feature installations and contributors to the codebase with a complex application. This is one of the predominant reasons why development teams have validated Agile methodologies. With Agile methodologies, you can facilitate the software lifecycle and provide continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) without the limitations of obsolete ways of managing the processes.

We bring you an in-depth look at how to enable continuous integration in Agile software development.

Waterfall Methodologies are Dated

You might have come across the terms Agile and Waterfall methodologies used together or compared many times. Yes, Waterfall methodologies were popular and are still used today in certain projects. In older applications, the codebase was smaller with less features and QA (quality assurance), hence it was easier to perform tests as soon as it was developed. In fact, small projects require design, development, and testing done in the lifecycle that too only once before installation.

In Waterfall methodology, sequential or linear approach is used for software development. The project is run down into smaller sequence of tasks. These tasks are grouped into phases and used in the project lifecycle.

To avoid the shortcomings, project managers, engineers, and other experts came up with various techniques along with CI and CD which can accelerate new development, versioning, and bug fixing.

What is Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD)?

Let us first understand the process of Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) before heading forward towards Agile and Continuous Integration installation part of it.

With CI and CD methodologies you can get the updates quickly during software lifecycles. Continuous integration is a process where recently committed code are automatically added to a testing and staging environ for quality assurance (QA).

Both automated and human tests are used to verify software version stability before installing it to production. Commonly tests were done before the code was sent to production, after CI a “new code” is deployed and added to the main repository and tested later.

Continuous Deployment (CD) is an additional step in the software release process where automated testing is used to verify the changes in a codebase and determine whether it is accurate and lasting for immediate autonomous deployment to a production environment.

In case the testing fails, then code will be sent back to developers, and the automation process will remove it from the next deployment. The process is repeated until the bugs and issues are fixed, and finally it is sent to production.

How Continuous Integration and Deployment Work?

It is a known fact that even a simple software has a lifecycle and needs timely modifications and upgrades. The sole purpose of CI and CD is to make these versions happen faster with minimum effort and time from the development teams.

The key stages in CI and CD are as follows:

  1. To build and assemble the code which is committed to the codebase by developers.
  2. Find errors by running unit tests on the code.
  3. Proceed the code to a staging environment in case no errors are found.
  4. If there are issues, run the tests against the codebase with the help of human intervention, or automation, or both.
  5. In case CD is a part of the environment, the tested code is deployed to production.

It is an important point to be noted that, there is a distinct difference between continuous deployment and continuous delivery. In continuous delivery, changes in production happens manually and in continuous deployment, changes are automated.

Continuous Integration CI for Better Performance and Productivity

It really takes time to adapt for teams when Agile and continuous integration is combined. However, Agile forms the base for progress in development and CI manages the dynamic changes that happen in the design or features of any application.

A lot of work goes in where teams will have to strategize, research and deploy tools, adapt to Scrum framework to achieve success in Agile software delivery cycle.

It is time for your team to implement continuous integration and Agile. If you haven’t, you are surely losing out on product success in this competitive sector.

Get your basics right with Agile

The foremost thing to know about Agile is that it needs multiple initiatives. If any of the processes goes wrong, then the entire software cycle will be impacted.

So many teams opt for Scrum framework to begin with. Scrum is a lightweight architecture which is used to manage product development and other knowledge work. But processes here will need more than proper management method to become Agile. The processes will need the support of tools which offer continuous response at a relatively higher speed.

Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) are used for this very reason. These are a set of automated processes which helps in bringing out the product with consistent flow and continuity.

More automation and less human intervention,

With the automation of CI/CD processes, you will be able to submit, version, build, test and release the code automatically. This results in shorter and frequent release cycles with lower risk of bugs and thereby better user experiences.

As a result, teams can focus more on innovation rather than manual work or administering the processes. It thereby avoids rigid process management in order to deliver quality at speed.

CI/CD needs trust from the team and the systems, and definitely requires an enriching mind shift. In addition to automation, the success of Agile lies with management and culture as well.

Quicker the speed of the tests, sooner you move ahead.

Continuous integration will need automation tools. CI requires persistent integration of code (daily or even hourly) into the code repository and testing at every integration.

Testing is essential to ensure quality delivery, but it is one of the most tiresome and extensive tasks when done manually. If we automate the testing, then we can save plenty of time and also provide feedback quickly to the developers.

When you go with shift-left testing (when testing is done earlier in software lifecycle), it will help you save resources. Here bugs are intercepted when testing costs are less, as compared to doing it later in the pipeline where the testing load is often bigger and expensive to complete.

But not all test automation tools are Agile, why?

It is a fact that to achieve agile and continuous integration & continuous delivery, test automation is the key answer. But it is also a fact that it is not acknowledged by software teams in large numbers. But why? Let’s find out:

Well, test automation tools need plenty of time and effort to begin and manage throughout the software lifecycles. It also requires automation scripts to be written by developers which in turn might be a hiccup for various development teams within an organization.

The good part is that test automation does not require coding. No-code test automation allows testers to set up and manage test automation. These testers are not technical experts, they are actually business experts.

Embitel is one such business expert in the industry with a domain experience of over 15 years. Our team fits effortlessly within your CI/CD process by offering a transparent view of the testing method. This not only is economical and saves your time during set-up and maintenance, but also enables Agile teams to test consistently at high speed.

Swathi Ramaswamy

About the Author

Swathi is a senior marketing strategist at Embitel Technologies. A former techie has now found her forte in content & marketing. Bohemian soul with a passion for reading, writing, gourmet, and old-world charms. When not working she is goofing around with her kid or couch potato-ing with books & movies.

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