There is an overhead associated with continuous integration, e.g., set up, re-training, awareness activities, stoppage to fix "bugs" that turn out to be data issues, enforced separation of concerns programming styles, etc.
At what point does continuous integration pay for itself?
EDIT: These were my findings
The set-up was CruiseControl.Net with Nant, reading from VSS or TFS.
Here are a few reasons for failure, which have nothing to do with the setup:
Cost of investigation: The time spent investigating whether a red light is due a genuine logical inconsistency in the code, data quality, or another source such as an infrastructure problem (e.g., a network issue, a timeout reading from source control, third party server is down, etc., etc.)
Political costs over infrastructure: I considered performing an "infrastructure" check for each method in the test run. I had no solution to the timeout except to replace the build server. Red tape got in the way and there was no server replacement.
Cost of fixing unit tests: A red light due to a data quality issue could be an indicator of a badly written unit test. So, data dependent unit tests were re-written to reduce the likelihood of a red light due to bad data. In many cases, necessary data was inserted into the test environment to be able to accurately run its unit tests. It makes sense to say that by making the data more robust then the test becomes more robust if it is dependent on this data. Of course, this worked well!
Cost of coverage, i.e., writing unit tests for already existing code: There was the problem of unit test coverage. There were thousands of methods that had no unit tests. So, a sizeable amount of man days would be needed to create those. As this would be too difficult to provide a business case, it was decided that unit tests would be used for any new public method going forward. Those that did not have a unit test were termed 'potentially infra red'. An intestesting point here is that static methods were a moot point in how it would be possible to uniquely determine how a specific static method had failed.
Cost of bespoke releases: Nant scripts only go so far. They are not that useful for, say, CMS dependent builds for EPiServer, CMS, or any UI oriented database deployment.
These are the types of issues that occured on the build server for hourly test runs and overnight QA builds. I entertain that these to be unnecessary as a build master can perform these tasks manually at the time of release, esp., with a one man band and a small build. So, single step builds have not justified use of CI in my experience. What about the more complex, multistep builds? These can be a pain to build, especially without a Nant script. So, even having created one, these were no more successful. The costs of fixing the red light issues outweighed the benefits. Eventually, developers lost interest and questioned the validity of the red light.
Having given it a fair try, I believe that CI is expensive and there is a lot of working around the edges instead of just getting the job done. It's more cost effective to employ experienced developers who do not make a mess of large projects than introduce and maintain an alarm system.
This is the case even if those developers leave. It doesn't matter if a good developer leaves because processes that he follows would ensure that he writes requirement specs, design specs, sticks to the coding guidelines, and comments his code so that it is readable. All this is reviewed. If this is not happening then his team leader is not doing his job, which should be picked up by his manager and so on.
For CI to work, it is not enough to just write unit tests, attempt to maintain full coverage, and ensure a working infrastructure for sizable systems.
The bottom line: One might question whether fixing as many bugs before release is even desirable from a business prespective. CI involves a lot of work to capture a handful of bugs that the customer could identify in UAT or the company could get paid for fixing as part of a client service agreement when the warranty period expires anyway.