· software-development testing

Late integration: Some thoughts

John Daniels has an interesting post summarising GOOSgaggle, an event run a few weeks ago where people met up to talk about the ideas in ‘Growing Object Oriented Software, Guided by Tests’.

It’s an interesting post and towards the end he states the following:

Given these two compelling justifications for starting with end-to-end tests, why is it that many people apparently don't start there? We came up with two possibilities, although there may be many others:
      Starting with the domain model can provide an illusion of rapid progress. You can show business features working while ignoring the realities of the larger system environment. Clearly, this is not normally an approach that addresses the biggest risks first. But it's an easy option and attractive when you're under pressure.
      For some reason the system environment is not available to you; perhaps, for example, the team creating the infrastructure is late delivering. So rather than taking the correct – and brave – option of loudly declaring progress on your project to be blocked, you restrict yourself to creating those parts of the system that are within your control.

My first thought on reading this was that it seems like a reasonable thing to say but what if we can’t do anything about the fact that it’s blocked?

I’ve previously worked on projects where we’ve had components that are integral to the whole application delivered late by another team and despite doing exactly as John suggests we’ve struggled to influence that situation.

In terms of systems thinking it might be said that we didn’t have sufficient leverage to change the system we were operating within to be the way that we wanted it.

Either way we were in the situation we could just sit there and stop doing anything or we could keep going and then accept that there would be some difficult late integration work later on.

We decided to go with the second option and we had exactly those illusions of ‘rapid progress’ until we actually had to integrate with those components.

However, we did made it clear that there was going to be a high cost with respect to re-work of the code from late integration. That was accepted as being a limitation of the system that we were working within and although the situation did improve slightly as time went on we never completely fixed it.

In an ideal world it would be good if just shouting loudly that you were blocked was enough to make everything fine but in reality it just becomes very repetitive and annoying!

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