Thursday, July 02, 2009

Taking turns in being the build master

The build master is a quite important role in an software development team. Responsibilities include ensuring the build works all the time and chasing down people who are fixing a broken build. Other items may include improving the build process which should also include the execution of comprehensive test suites in all test beds.

While on one hand it is a big help if a person in this role has prior experience with these tasks. On the other hand - and that doesn't have to be a competing goal - it is also valuable if team members take turns.

Let me explain. In all teams that I have coached I have found that different people have different strengths. For example one person might be excellent in writing Perl scripts while a different person is extremely proficient in relational database systems. By taking turns each individual can emphasize their area of expertise in the build master role. That way, if the skill is important to the whole team, the skill is also important for the build master role. Eventually all areas of expertise will get addressed eventually.

One more benefit of taking turns is that all team members walk in "the build master's shoes". There is a much better understanding of and buy-in by the team for build master related tasks and challenges. The response to being chased down because of a broken build will be tainted quite differently than if the same person is in the build master role.

At the moment I'm experimenting with swapping the build master role at the end of each release cycle (currently one month). And already the above mentioned effects have become visible.

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