Stop doing “DO NOT MERGE” pull requests

You probably have been in a situation where you finished your task and ready to create a pull request, but for whatever reason you don’t want your changes to get through (For example, you want to merge your changes back into the main branch after the current release). A common behavior – or let’s say old fashioned way – is to put something like “DO NOT MERGE” or “WORK IN PROGRESS” in the pull request’s title. And as an unwritten rule you should write it in all caps :). In such a situation, you can draft a pull request instead of creating a pull request.

To Draft a Pull Request in Azure Repos, you need to choose “Create as draft” when you want to create a pull request.

If you look at the list of pull requests now, you will see your pull request marked with “Draft” token.

Share your Azure Boards status with Status Badge

Microsoft introduced a new feature in Azure Boards called “Status Badge” which summaries your board status in a git-style badge and allows you to share it in your docs and dashboards.

You can find this new feature in your board settings under Status Badge.

Status Badge

Check “allow anonymous users to access this status badge” checkbox if you want to share your badge with anonymous users.

New “Basic” Process available in Azure Boards

Microsoft introduced a new process in Azure Boards called “Basic“. Now Azure DevOps supports four different templates to address different team size and projects with different needs and processes. New “Basic” process is very similar to github issue concept.

What does the world look like in Basic mode?

It’s all about simplicity. It just makes the process very simple and takes the heavy-planning-and-backlog-management bits out of the equation. If you are not maintaining an extensive multi-layer portfolio backlog where delivery must be tracked in different levels (and you probably have couple of cross functional teams), then “Basic” is for you.

You have a three-level hierarchy of ‘Epics”, “Issues” and “Tasks”. Technically speaking, everything is an Issue. If you are familiar with “Agile” or “Scrum” templates in Azure DevOps, an Issue is equivalent to a “User Story” or “Product Backlog Item (PBI)” or “Bug”. You’ve heard it right, there is no such a thing like Bug item. An issue is what you and your team need to deal with – it can be a bug investigation, bug fixing, feature development or a code improvement. You can breakdown an issue to some small tasks (this is usually done by developers) and then track your tasks as usual. Epic comes into the picture when you want to group couple of issues as a deliverable.

Is “Basic” for me?

First, lets’ look at the summary of all templates:

Agile:
This process is great if you want to use Agile methodologies to execute the project. You should choose Agile template if you want to track “User Stories” and “Bugs” on the Kanban board. This is recommended if you want to deliver a User Story from requirement gathering and design to coding, testing and deployment in one “iteration”. You manage your portfolio backlog through “Features” and “Epics” in this template.

Scrum:
Choose Scrum process if you want to use Scrum practices to plan and execute the project. Using Scrum template you can track “Product Backlog Items” and “Bugs” on the Kanban board. You manage and track your portfolio backlog through “Features” and “Epics”.

CMMI:
You should choose CMMI if you want to have auditable record of decisions and change requests. Using CMMI template you have to manage “Requirements” at backlog level and “Features” and “Epics” at portfolio backlog level. “Change Requests”, “Issues”, “Risks” and “Reviews” are other types of work item in this template.

Basic:
You should choose Basic if you don’t want to manage your portfolio backlog extensively and you see “Epic” as a deliverable. in this template you only have “Issues” to track your feature development and bugs.

Basic is a right fit for you if you are not into complex processes. It may not be scalable enough when it comes to big teams and complex plannings and executions. In both Scrum and Agile you can plot out complex delivery and feature road maps, while basic by nature is not really suitable for long-term multi-level planning where sometime you need to track the progress of a deliverable across couple of sprints or even (Hopefully not!) releases.

Bypass branch policy in Azure Repos

It’s a good practice to lock down your repo and put some branch policies in place to avoid merging unwanted codes and non-complaint branches and commits into your master branch. However, we’ve all been in that situation where something urgently needs a fix and for some reasons we can’t meet the branch policies. By using Azure Repos, you can give a special permission to a set of users to override and bypass branch policies when things are on fire.

Azure Repos allows your lead developers to bypass branch policies when they want to push code or complete a pull request when it’s needed. You just need to set the settings in your repo settings. Navigate to your repo’s security setting, select the group and role your super users belong to and set the bypass policies’s settings.

azure-repos-set-permission-to-bypass-branch-policies

CI/CD/CT at Enterprise Scale – Add Continuous Testing to Pull Requests

As a good practice we always branch out our feature branch from the main branch (E.g. master) and when we are done with the development, we send a pull request to merge changes back into the main branch.

Due to the fact that main branch always evolving and going ahead with changes from other branches, when it comes to merging back a feature branch to the main branch, changes could break the code. While we expect team members to update their feature branches with latest changes from the main branch before sending a pull request to reduce the risk of broken code, this is not working well at all the time.

This is why introducing continues testing into the pull request process removes the risk of broken code. This simply can be implemented in VSTS by adding a Build Validation as part of Branch Policies.

Navigate to list of branches, find your main branch and then select “Branch Policies”.

On the policies screen, click on Build Validations and add your build pipeline to the branch policies. Continuous test can be one of the steps in your build pipeline. You can make this policy Required or Optional.

You can also enable Test Impact Analysis (TIA) to reduce the testing and respectively building time.

You can fine more information about TIA here.

CI/CD/CT at Enterprise Scale – Enable Test Impact Analysis

As part of your CI/CD/CT pipeline you want to integrate, deploy and tests your application couple of times a day. When it comes to enterprise level application, we usually have a huge set of tests which makes it very hard and time consuming (if not impossible) to run every time as part of our continuous testing.

Test Impact Analysis (TIA) is a technique to determine the impacted tests for a given set of changes. Therefore,  you don’t need to run all of the tests every time you want to build and deploy a new version.

TIA is just a click away in VSTS – you can easily enable TIA as part of your CI/CD/CT pipeline to dramatically reduce the time needed to run the tests.

You just need to enable “Run only impacted tests” in your version 2.* and above build’s test step.