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May 22, 2023

Elevating Software Delivery Performance: The Benefits of Trunk-Based Development and the Evolution of Validation Steps

Written By

Adam Lyth


Software Development

Read time

3 minute

In an ever-accelerating digital age, software development methodologies can greatly influence an organisation's overall performance, and indeed, the wellbeing of its developers. Among these methodologies, trunk-based development has emerged as a potent strategy for increasing software delivery performance, mitigating developer burnout, and ultimately bolstering business outcomes. The DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA), a significant body of research by Google, corroborates these claims and demonstrates a clear link between these strategies and organisational success.

Trunk-Based Development: A Primer

At its core, trunk-based development is a source-control branching model where developers work on a single, shared branch called the 'trunk'. Developers create short-lived feature branches, regularly merge them back into the main trunk, and ensure that the trunk always remains in a deployable state. This approach to development offers several advantages.
Firstly, the regular merging of branches in trunk-based development drastically reduces the integration hell often associated with long-lived branches, where resolving merge conflicts becomes a project in itself. Secondly, because everyone is working off the latest version of the code, it's much easier to identify and isolate problems. This means less time debugging and more time developing. Finally, trunk-based development fosters a culture of collaboration and transparency. Changes are visible and shared with the entire team immediately, encouraging collective ownership of the codebase.

The DORA Report and Trunk-Based Development

The DORA report by Google provides compelling evidence supporting the efficacy of trunk-based development. According to the report, companies employing trunk-based development practices exhibited higher software delivery performance, resulting in more frequent code deployments, faster lead times, quicker recovery from failures, and lower change failure rates.
What's more, these companies also reported less burnout among developers. This reduction in burnout can be attributed to the elimination of the complex, often stressful merging processes associated with long-lived branches. Developers, therefore, spend less time in firefighting mode and more time in a creative, problem-solving mindset.

Evolving Trunk-Based Development: Pre-Merge Validation Steps

As compelling as these benefits are, there's always room for improvement. One such evolution in the trunk-based development flow involves integrating validation steps before merging code. Here, tools such as Vercel and database branching strategies have a significant role to play.
Vercel simplifies the deployment of frontend applications, providing an environment for every branch when a pull request is created. This includes setting up an API and a branched database. The idea of database branching is revolutionary, as it allows for every feature branch to have its own database instance, mimicking the production environment closely, and allowing the testing and effects of database migrations.
These strategies eliminate the need for traditional staging environments, accelerating testing and validation, and reducing the chances of last-minute surprises within production. Furthermore, they also offer developers the confidence to experiment and innovate without fear of breaking the production environment.

Bringing in Validation Flow

Vercel takes it a step further by introducing an intuitive validation flow. It allows users to add comments directly on the screen and take screenshots. This collaborative approach to code review and validation can block any git merge until the changes have been approved.

This approach ensures every change is validated, not just from a code perspective but also from a functionality and UX point of view. By making this a prerequisite for merging, it guarantees that only thoroughly vetted changes make it to the trunk. This dramatically reduces the chance of defects slipping into production and ensures the trunk always remains in a deployable state.


By adapting and evolving methodologies like trunk-based development and integrating advanced validation steps, organisations can significantly improve their software delivery performance. As the DORA report illustrates, this is not just an academic exercise but a practical strategy with measurable, meaningful impact. The future of software development lies not in isolated work but in collaborative, transparent, and efficient practices that encourage innovation while maintaining a steady focus on quality.


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