Agile Development Checklist

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The purpose of this article is to define a set of ideal practices for an agile software development project.

The purpose of this article is to define a set of ideal practices for an agile software development project. The idea for this article came to me after discussing CMMI-type processes and realizing that there is no agile equivalent. I encourage you to leave comments about this article using the discussions module at the bottom of this page. Please note that the practices listed are the practices that I believe are essential to a good agile development project; they do not necessarily have anything to do with being agile. I have tried to list the practices in descending order of importance.

Practice 1: Aggressive Refactoring
In my opinion. refactoring is the most overlooked skill for a software developer. A well refactored application has a much higher value to the project sponsor than does a poorly refactored application. The most common sign of code in need of refactoring is excessively long methods. I try to keep methods to less than 100 lines. Other common code smells are misleading or meaningless variable names, and code duplication. Static code analysis tools, such as FxCop, can provide a useful measure of code quality.

Practice 2: Testing
Firstly, their should BE some developer testing. All code that is written should be testable and have tests written for it. It is acceptable to modify your program to facilitate good testing. I believe that the traditional testing terms; unit tests, integration tests and system tests have become outdated. Instead I prefer the terms developer tests, functional tests and non-functional tests. Non-functional tests are things like performance testing, functional tests are tests that the customer cares about like use case tests or business transaction tests, and developer tests are everything else that the developer needs to test to prove to herself that the code is correct.

As much testing as possible should be automated and run as part of continuous integration. If code coverage analysis is included in the automated testing it provides a nice indication of the health of the system at any point in time.

Practice 3: Automated Build and Deployment
The project should have an automated build, an automated deployment and ideally automated testing. In the optimal situation a developer can click a button and the build process will build the latest source, deploy, test and report on the result. Automating these processes not only saves time but it also eliminates a huge number of bugs and time wasters.

Practice 4: Continuous Integration
If a project has automated build, deployment and testing then continuous integration is really just a simple matter of automating the kick-off of that build, deploy test cycle. Every check in should result in a new build and test, on a separate build server. The results of this should be reported to every team member and it should be established team practice to immediately fix the build. A working build is everyone's top priority. People should not be made to feel bad if they break the build, as this decreases their courage.

Practice 5: Source control
A source control system should be used to store all project artifacts including: code, non-code documentation, build scripts, database schema and data scripts, and tests. Code should not be checked into the build until it compiles, has tests and is passing its tests.

Practice 6: Communication plan
There should be a defined, direct communication channel between the developers and the customers. This can be (best to worst): on demand face-to-face communication, daily or weekly face-face communication, contact phone numbers, instant messaging,email mailing list, intermediary (BA or PM). These communication channels can and should be combined.


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