The effectiveness of test-driven development: an industrial case study


Test-driven development (TDD) is a software development practice, where test cases are incrementally written before implementing the production code. This paper presents the results of a multi-case study investigating the effectiveness of TDD within an industrial environment. Three comparable medium-sized projects were observed during their development cycle. Two projects were driven without TDD practice, while the third one introduced TDD into the development process. The effectiveness of TDD was expressed in terms of external code quality, productivity, and maintainability. Our results indicate that the TDD developers produced higher quality code that is easier to maintain, although we did observe a reduction in productivity.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

  2. 2.

    In incremental development, the releases are defined by beginning with one small, functional subsystem and then adding functionality with each new release (Pflegeer and Atlee 2006).

  3. 3.

    JUnit—A regression testing framework written by Erich Gamma and Kent Beck,

  4. 4.

    CCCC—C and C ++ Code Counter, a free software tool for the measurement of source code related metrics by Tim Littlefair.

  5. 5.

    Session Initiation Protocol, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), RFC 3261,

  6. 6.

    Primavera Progress Reporter is a web-based program that connects project team members across projects, throughout an enterprise.

  7. 7.

    ISO/IEC 9,126. (2001). Software engineering—product quality—part 1: Quality model. ISO 2001.

  8. 8.

    Cyclomatic complexity is a measure of the complexity of code related to the number of ways there are to traverse a piece of code (McCabe 1976).

  9. 9.

    An unacceptable behavior of the software is defined as a failure. A fault is a defect in the program that, when executed with certain input data, causes a failure.

  10. 10.

    See Albrecht and Gaffney (1983) for details.

  11. 11.

    Unit test code was excluded.

  12. 12.

    Sanchez et. al. 2007 reported the average ratio across all ten releases as 0.61.


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Correspondence to David Batič.


Appendix 1

See Table 3.

Table 3 Projects details

Appendix 2

See Table 4.

Table 4 Survey after TDD training

Appendix 3

See Table 5.

Table 5 Final survey

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Dogša, T., Batič, D. The effectiveness of test-driven development: an industrial case study. Software Qual J 19, 643–661 (2011).

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  • Test-driven development
  • Testing and debugging
  • Testing strategies
  • Productivity
  • Maintainability
  • Software quality/SQA
  • Software engineering process