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Test-Driven Development

James JandebeurTesting has always been a bit of a thorn in the side of software development, necessary as it is. It costs money and time, ties up resources, and does not result in easily tracked returns on investment. In a typical organization, the testing process beings after the development project is complete, in order to ferret out defects or make sure the software is fit for service. If there are problems, development needs to fix them, and then the testing process begins again. Do you see the problem with this cycle?

An alternative to the usual testing process is continuous testing, such as Test-Driven Development (TDD). TDD is not a new concept; it has been around since 2003, but it is still rarely used. The process is straightforward:

  1. Write a test for a single item under development.
  2. Run the test, which will fail.
  3. Write the code to enable the test to pass.
  4. Re-run the test.
  5. Improve the code and retest.

What is the point of this process? At first glance, it may appear that it would make the testing process more complicated, not less. However, it ensures that the testing process is continuous throughout the project. This means that testing is preventing defects rather than finding and repairing them after the fact, thus improving the quality of the final project. TDD provides a suite of tests for the software, almost as a side effect. The tests themselves, when well structured, can effectively provide documentation, as they show what a piece of code is intended to do. Finally, when combined with the user or product owner’s input, the process can be used to perform acceptance testing ahead of the coding, a process known as Acceptance Test-Driven Development, which can help to develop and refine requirements.

Each of these items will ultimately need to be done, regardless of whether they are a part of the traditional testing and re-coding process. TDD allows them to be done in a manner that reduces the number of times steps need to be repeated. Does your organization use TDD? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

James Jandebeur
CFPS | CTFL

Written by James Jandebeur at 05:00

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