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Qualities and Issues of Branching : A Method Proposal for Formulating a Branching Strategy

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Title: Qualities and Issues of Branching : A Method Proposal for Formulating a Branching Strategy
Author(s): Store, Joakim
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Tietojenkäsittelytieteen osasto
Discipline: Tietojenkäsittelytiede
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
In software configuration management, branching is a common practice, which can enable efficient parallel development between developers and teams. However, the developers might not be aware of the different branching practice options and how to exactly formulate a branching strategy. This could lead to an opposite effect towards productivity, and other issues as well. The focus of this thesis is in what branching practices are considered as beneficial, what affects their usability, what risks are involved, and how to plan these practices in a structured manner. There are plenty of branching practices presented in the literature, which can either complement each other or be completely incompatible. A lot of the practices' beneficiality depends on the surrounding context, such as the tools in use and project characteristics. The most relevant risk to branching is merge conflicts, but there are other risks as well. The approaches for planning a branching strategy, however, are found to be too narrow in the reviewed literature. Thus, Branching Strategy Formulation and Analysis Method (BSFAM) is proposed to help teams and organizations plan their branching strategy in a structured manner. Additionally, the issues of branching are explored in the context of an organization that has multiple concurrent projects ongoing for a single product. Information on this is gathered through a survey, semi-structured interviews, and available documentation. The issues that were found can be attributed to a lack of proper base strategy, difficulties in coordination and awareness, and test automation management in relation to branching. The proposed method is then applied in that same context in order to provide solutions to the organization's issues, and to provide an example case. BSFAM will be taken into use in upcoming projects in the organization, and it will be improved if necessary. If the proposed method is to be adopted more widely and its resulting information published, it could provide further research towards how different branching practices fit in different contexts. Additionally, it could help in new, generally better, branching practices to emerge.
Keyword(s): Branching Parallel development Software configuration management Version control Integration

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