Monday, 31 December 2012

Review of 2012

2012 has been a full-on year with lots of change. I started the year in my previous role, preparing for a transition into a newly created role of "Solution Architect"; moving away from both day to day coding and purely concentrating on .NET applications / systems. It sounded a really interesting challenge but another opportunity presented itself working for my current company in another newly created role of "Technical Team Lead". It was a hands-on development role, leading a team of 3 developers bringing a large business critical application in-house and helping to roll out scrum and other processes (such as TDD/BDD, Continuous Integration, etc.) to the business and team.

The very first challenge was the knowledge transfer sessions for the "out-sourced" application, which had been designed and developed by one company and then the maintenance passed onto a second company. It's probably fair to say that the code has grown organically rather than being designed and has undergone several architectural changes without completing or replacing the previous model(s). As a result it contains both direct SQL access via ADO.NET and at least 2 different ORM implementations. Many other areas of the code based might contain a mixture of design patterns alongside some large "procedural based" class methods. There were no automated tests of any form, and most documentation had either been lost or was now hopelessly out of date! Having just had the opportunity of working in a completely green field system in my last role, getting the chance to apply that knowledge in a large, deployed, business critical brownfield system seemed like a nice challenge (I have spent much time wondering if I was mad!)

With such an interestingly complex system we had our most success videoing the hand over sessions, recording what didn't work as much as what did work as this both gave us the instant knowledge and the ability to go back after the event to refresh our memories. This also meant that those sessions are available as a record for new members joining the team. The very first win was the ability to deploy and develop all aspects of the system locally, with instruction guides that could be followed by the entire team and worked every time on every machine (no small achievement!). We are now preparing for the production deployment of our first "in-house" developed release of this application including a few small pieces of new functionality but mostly containing massively increased logging to help track down issues reported by the business in the production environment.

As well as taking over responsibility for the main application code base, we have replaced an existing ASP system with an MVC application developed in sprints using Scrum, TDD and TeamCity Continuous Integration - a massive learning curve for the team which they handled extremely well. This system has had two functionality deployments so far, with a third currently in test. This is a big improvement over the current norm of deployments every 3 or 6 months but there is still a little way to go before we can look to release at least every sprint.

I think that on the whole the team can be really happy as we have accomplished everything that was promised in 2012, just not necessarily everything that was hoped for - but we have to leave something to improve upon in 2013!

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