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Merge Conflicts in GitHub

What DevOps Center Users Need to Know

Merge conflicts in Github can be quite confusing for DevOps Center users who are leveraging version control for the first time. In this blog, we explain what a merge conflict in GitHub is and when it occurs.

We also discuss how to detect a conflict when you’re working in DevOps Center, and we examine how to resolve one. Last, but certainly not least, we list some best practices for preventing merge conflicts in GitHub.

What Is a Merge Conflict in GitHub?

An abstract image of components trying to merge, representing merge conflicts in GitHub

A merge conflict is a response from GitHub that prevents you from merging changes to a component when promoting work items to the next stage. The component is always a part of multiple work items your team is currently working on. 

With a merge conflict, there are different versions of the component in the individual development environments. Why? Because team members are all working on their specific changes to complete their assigned work item.

When Does a Merge Conflict in GitHub Occur?

A merge conflict can occur when you promote a work item that:

  • Contains a component that’s a part of more than one work items
  • Another team member has reconfigured in their own development environment, resulting in multiple versions of the component
  • Has discrepancies between the different versions of the component that GitHub can’t automatically resolve

In a seamless DevOps Center promotion, you merge the work item’s source files from the current stage’s branch in your VCS to the next stage’s source control branch. But if GitHub detects a conflict, it blocks the deployment.

Conflict Detection and Resolution in GitHub

So how do you detect merge conflicts? And how do you resolve a merge conflict?

Conflict Detection

Fortunately, DevOps Center automatically warns you about the possibility of a merge conflict when you deploy multiple work items that share the same source file. You’ll see a warning that says something like this:

You’re promoting multiple work items that contain one or more of the same components. When the components are merged, they can conflict or overwrite each other. 

WI-00004 and WI-00006 both contain: [component name]

Conflict Resolution

To resolve a merge conflict, perform these steps:

  1. Cancel the promotion and analyze the potential conflict by going to the error dialog in the Activity History for more information about the event. You can also see additional details in the pull request in the source control system. Inspect the contents of the component metadata in the work items’ branch in GitHub to review and resolve the conflicts to the changes.
  2. After resolving any conflicts, promote the work items one at a time.
  3. After completing each promotion, test and verify the changes in the integration stage to make sure the results are what you’re looking for.
  4. Review the integration in GitHub to confirm the results are what you’re looking for.

Best Practices for Preventing Merge Conflicts in GitHub

Of course, promotions are much smoother when there aren’t any issues. Here are some best practices for preventing merge conflicts:

  • Coordinate work items so multiple team members aren’t making changes to the same source file at the same time.
  • Have team members merge their changes themselves to minimize delays.
  • Merge your changes early in the process to catch and address problems before your main branch changes too much.
  • Merge your changes often to minimize the discrepancies between branches.

Avoid Merge Conflicts in GitHub to Enhance Velocity

Merge conflicts don’t have to cost you your sanity or ability to deliver work quickly. It takes some practice to get used to detecting and resolving them, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. 

What’s more: By adhering to best practices for preventing merge conflicts in GitHub, you can minimize the chances of blocked promotions. And that in turn will greatly enhance your velocity.


What are the two main types of merge conflicts?

The two main types of merge conflicts are content conflicts and structural conflicts. Content conflicts are caused by two developers making changes to the same components. Structural conflicts occur when multiple developers adjust the structure of a file, for example by changing the order of files or adding or removing a file.

What are the benefits of using a version control system like GitHub?

A VCS like GitHub provides a centralized repository for your team to store configurations and track changes so you can easily perform a rollback if needed. It also facilitates collaboration, automated testing, and continuous integration and continuous delivery. Learn more about version control.

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