I want my helicopter view back! (BDD and Microservices, part 1)

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Here at SpeedLedger Engineering, we took the plunge into the world of microservices some time ago. We have gradually phased out our old monolithic style applications in favor of many small and independent micro services/apps.

Overall, the micro services paradigm aligns very well with our organization (small independent teams) and we are getting pretty good at it, I must say! We are constantly improving our infrastructure and deployment tools, enabling us to develop and deploy quicker and more often. As a result, the general time-to-market has decreased and our customers are getting more new features, sooner.

However, one big drawback of working in isolated islands of people and code is that you risk losing the big picture, the “helicopter view”. Unsurprisingly, this is what happened to me and my teammates. We often found ourselves asking questions like:

  • What’s supposed to happen in this business flow?
  • What are the possible inputs to this API?
  • Which apps will call this endpoint?

The answers to these and similar questions are not impossible to find but it always takes valuable time to track them down and to get them clarified.  

I felt something had to be done about this situation. For a long time, I have been a fan of BDD (Behavior Driven Development) but I never really got my feet wet in a real world situation. I suspected our current situation could benefit a lot from a successful BDD effort, and that it provided a perfect opportunity for me to experiment with and learn more about BDD.

For someone who doesn’t know what BDD  is, it can be described as “executable documentation” or “executable examples” that a non-programmer can understand and edit. More about this later…

After some initial discussion, we decided that I would do this in the context of a “personal 20 percent project”, famously invented and used by Google.  The main reason being that part of the work had to be done outside the team boundary, touching all the other teams in some way. In line with this, we actually named the project “BDD across team borders”. 

This was in February, and since then I have spent most of my Fridays exploring the possibilities of introducing BDD at SpeedLedger, and – more generally – automated testing on the highest possible level in a microservices environment.  In a series of coming posts, I will blog about BDD and the progress of the project. Hopefully someone will find it interesting. Also, I would love to get some feedback from you blog readers along the way!

 

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