Advantages of Versioning | TechRepublic.com
Learn about the many benefits of versioning in the software development environment and why developers need software versioning.
However you distribute your organization’s software products and/or services, whether through online tools, APIs, or downloadable executables, there are many compelling reasons to version releases. History has proven that it can be of enormous benefit to development teams and users alike.
Whether you choose the popular semantic numbering scheme (also known as SemVer) or another versioning scheme, using a consistent versioning scheme is always better than none at all. This programming tutorial highlights the benefits of versioning software products and/or services.
See: Version control versus version management
Why is versioning important?
In a word: clarity. From early development to release, it’s vital that everyone at every step of the software development chain recognizes new features and bug fixes in the code. Although increasing the revision digit of the semantic version number alone does not provide this kind of information, the change should be enough to trigger further investigations to discover what’s new.
This highlights an equally vital component of version control: documenting and communicating changes between releases. These should be kept up to date and placed in a place that is easily accessible to those who need this information. For testers, this could be a Jira page; For users, a public webpage on the company website or a release email are both good options.
Benefits of upgrading
Consistently providing release versions and change updates benefits everyone, from fellow developers, testers, and project managers to external stakeholders and, above all, users. Here are just a few of the benefits of working with versioning software.
Instantly identifiable as the latest and greatest
Versioning makes it easy to identify software with the latest features. This is especially true when using semantic versioning, where incremental version numbers make it immediately apparent which version represents the latest and greatest version of the software—both overall and for each major release number. For example, 3.1.0 is a more up-to-date version than 1.14.0, 1.5.1, or anything in between.
In a well-structured and efficient software development organization, most changes should be planned well in advance of release. By posting these changes with the expected version number and/or name, QA staff can build their test plans.
Other teams can also take advantage of the preliminary information. For example, marketers can start putting together promotional materials in advance so that they can jump into action as soon as the software version is updated and released.
Determining the exact version causing the error saves developers a lot of time in tracking down the source of the problem. Combining a versioning scheme and a versioning control system (VCS) makes for a particularly powerful duo, as it provides a narrow scope of coding commits to filter through.
Concurrent development streams
Thanks to version management, development teams can focus on different product versions at the same time. For example, one team is working on a bug in one version, while another team is making progress on the latest data stream. Once the bug is fixed, the code changes can be merged with the latest code base using VCS.
After tagging a snapshot of the codebase, the organization can be sure of exactly what will be included in the release. Moreover, if anything goes wrong, it will be much easier to revert to the previous release.
An insight into the evolution of the product
Project managers and other product stakeholders can gain valuable insight into the development and evolution of the product through the release list. The use of special software makes it possible to delve into the details of each issue for an even finer examination.
Smoother product updates
Users of your products, both individuals and organizations, are better prepared to plan updates when they can review your version information. In the case of semantic versioning, it is only possible to determine what changes have been made and by how much based on the increased numbers (large, small and patch). For example, a user may choose to schedule updates only for major releases.
Final thoughts on the benefits of versioning
This software development tutorial has presented some of the key benefits of versioning software products and/or services. Whichever versioning system you use, it’s important to be consistent with conventions and release schedules. Additionally, try to be as transparent as possible and provide publicly available release details as early as possible in the release cycle.
Another often overlooked aspect of versioning is user input. Don’t be afraid to ask your users for input on your versioning scheme. Does it work for them? Is the schedule reasonable? These and many other questions are worth asking.
Congratulations if your organization has already implemented a versioning scheme! No doubt you have enjoyed many, if not all, of the benefits listed here. In order to optimize your processes, you may want to think carefully about this article versioning best practices.