How Agile Impacts Configuration Management and Testing: An Interview with Steve Berczuk

[interview]
Summary:

Steve Berczuk is a regular contributor to TechWell and StickyMinds and a principal engineer and ScrumMaster at Fitbit in Boston. In this interview, Steve discusses configuration management and agile, helpful tools, and how testing has evolved over the years with the rise of agile.

 

Steve Berczuk is a regular contributor to TechWell and StickyMinds and a principal engineer and ScrumMaster at Fitbit in Boston. In this interview, Steve discusses configuration management and agile, helpful tools, and how testing has evolved over the years with the rise of agile.

Jonathan Vanian: I'm here today with Steve Berczuk. Steve, thank you for taking time to chat with us today. You're very familiar around these parts. You frequently write great stories for us on TechWell and on StickyMinds. Let's start out by having you talk about your career thus far for some of our readers and listeners.

Steve Berczuk: Okay, so I started off and went to school. I got an electrical engineering degree and segued into a job doing quality assurance for a mainframe software company. I decided that that wasn't really what I enjoyed doing. Really lucked out and got involved with a group at Eastman Kodak of all places, which was doing some really cool stuff when I started working.

I got a job at Kodak where people really understood what they were doing. They understood software development really well and they understood configuration management. They understood working with co-distributed teams.   

After that, you know, was one of those times when companies were laying off people and then I went through a couple of other companies. A couple startups where I basically, the stuff I took for granted that I learned in my first software development job, people just didn't know how to do.

JV: Interesting.

SB: Over time, that's what led me to write, I wrote some papers. I met Brad Appleton. Eventually I wrote this book on configuration management patterns, which to me were things that I just assumed everyone knew. Some of the feedback I get when I look at the book reviews, "We all know this, what's the big deal?"  Not everyone does.

JV: Yeah and when you say that you found out that people didn't actually know what they were doing, what do you mean by that?  What did they not know?  

SB: It's simple things like how to reproduce environments or how to not have integration builds fail. I went to do some work and I went home and things stopped working because they didn't understand the concept of private workspaces—that was a big one.

Then I segued into a bunch of things. In between, I'm very interested in configuration management. Then, I segued into learning about patterns. Then, I learned about agile. The three of them really have a lot in common, I think. Configuration management and agile, they give you an infrastructure so that you can focus on the interesting stuff, which is building.

JV: Right, sure.

SB: Patterns are also a way of instilling key knowledge, so you're not spending a lot of time reinventing stuff.  What you're doing is you're building interesting things.

JV: Right, what's actually very interesting is that you say that CM and agile are related. For a lot of people, maybe they don’t believe that to be the case. Can you explain that relation between the two? 

SB: To me they both form a framework. They help you just focus on the work. CM helps you, if you have your CM story in place you don’t have to say “What version of source code am I using?  What version of the jargon am I using? How do I build this?”

JV: It's all there for you. 

SB: There's tools in place. The ideal is the one-button build or the one-button setting-up-a-workspace thing, and CM allows you to do that. It also enables you to do agile because then you can actually maintain a velocity because you're not spending time wrestling with trivial issues.

JV: Right, CM just keeps things running. It keeps all those gears moving and you can go back to different versions.

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About the author

Jonathan Vanian's picture Jonathan Vanian

Jonathan Vanian is an online editor who edits, writes, interviews, and helps turn the many cranks at StickyMinds, TechWell, AgileConnection, and CMCrossroads. He has worked for newspapers, websites, and a magazine, and is not as scared of the demise of the written word as others may appear to be. Software and high technology never cease to amaze him.

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