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Test-driven IS strategy 1: introduction
Can the principles that underpin test-driven development be applied to the definition and execution of IS strategy?
Test-driven development is a well-established approach to systems development. The defining characteristic is that tests are written before code is written. Tests provide a structure for design and coding. Test-driven development is generally accepted as a fast approach to development that delivers a high quality product.
Test-driven development forces the developer to focus on the outcome of the work, and how the work can be proved to be correct. This focus is then repaid by freeing the developer from many of the difficulties of traditional approaches.
I have found test-driven development hugely valuable. It helps us develop our Metrici Advisor software with speed, ease and confidence. It makes our development process much more efficient, and helps us compete with businesses many times our size.
Test-driven development is not just about programming and testing. It is a way of thinking about design. It moves the focus away from the structure of the solution, to the definition of the requirements and how the correctness of the solution can be validated. This clarification of intent is what makes development so much easier and less risky.
As the name suggests, test-driven development is fundamentally a systems development practice. But the benefits of the approach - efficiency, clarity, low-risk, speed, good communication, good change management - are general benefits that all parts of IT could benefit from. Can we use the underlying principles - a focus on requirements and validation of correctness - to achieve these benefits across all parts of IT management? I believe we can, and that we can scale these ideas to the definition and execution of IS strategy.
To understand how, we need to look more closely, not at the technical aspects of testing, but at the principles that make test-driven development work so well. I will look at these principles in more detail next week.Next: Test-driven IS strategy 2: principles
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