Transitioning from GitFlow to GitHub PR Workflow: A Journey in Streamlining Our Development Process


In our company, we originally adopted the GitFlow model for our development workflow. This model served us well, facilitating a structured approach to feature development, release management, and hotfixes. However, with the introduction of GitHub and its powerful pull request (PR) workflow, we decided to transition to a more integrated system. This blog post outlines our journey, the challenges we faced, and the solutions we implemented to streamline our development process.

The GitFlow Model

Under the GitFlow model, our development process was as follows:

  1. Feature Development: All features were checked out from the staging branch.
  2. Merging: Features were merged back into staging.
  3. Release: When ready to release, staging was merged into main, triggering a production deployment.
  4. Hotfixes: If a bug was found in main, a hotfix branch was created from main, fixed, and then merged back into both staging and main.

This workflow ensured stability and control, as any code merged into main was deemed ready for production. However, with the shift to using GitHub, we sought to leverage its PR and code review capabilities to enhance our process further.

Transition to GitHub PR Workflow

With GitHub, we restructured our workflow to utilize PRs more effectively:

  1. Development Branch: We set main as our development branch.
  2. Feature Branches: Features were checked out from main and developed.
  3. PRs to Main: Developers created PRs to merge features back into main.
  4. Automatic Deployment: Upon PR approval, main automatically deployed to staging.
  5. Tagging for Production: Once a tag was created on main, it triggered an automatic deployment to production.

This new workflow integrated GitHub’s PR and code review features seamlessly. However, it introduced a significant challenge: handling hotfixes. Since main was now our development branch, any hotfix merged into main could inadvertently include unstable code, potentially affecting production.

Refining the Workflow

To address this issue, we made further modifications to our model while retaining the benefits of GitHub PRs:

  1. Branch Structure: We retained both main and staging branches.
  2. PR to Staging: All developers were required to PR their changes to staging.
  3. Releases: When ready to release, a PR from staging to main was created.
  4. Hotfixes: In case of a hotfix, the fix was branched from main, PR’d to both main and staging.

Although effective, this approach necessitated creating two PRs for each hotfix – one to main and one to staging. To simplify this process, we leveraged GitHub Actions to automate the synchronization of hotfixes across branches.

Automation with GitHub Actions

We created a GitHub Action using a bot account to automate our hotfix workflow:

  1. Hotfix PR: When a hotfix PR to main is accepted, the action checks out main to a patch branch.
  2. Automatic PR: The patch branch automatically creates a PR to staging.
  3. Conflict Resolution: In case of conflicts, the bot’s PR allows manual conflict resolution on the patch branch before updating the PR to staging.

This automation ensures that our hotfixes are focused on main, with staging being automatically updated via a synchronized patch branch. This approach maintains the integrity of our branches and simplifies the workflow for our developers.

GitHub Action Script

Below is the GitHub Action script we used to implement this workflow:

name: Pull Main

      - main

    if: github.event.pull_request == null || github.event.pull_request.head.ref != 'staging'
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - uses: actions/checkout@v4
          submodules: recursive
          token: ${{ secrets.PAT_TOKEN }}
      - name: Push a new branch
        id: push_branch
        run: |
          git config --global "${{ vars.INFR_AI_BOT_NAME }}"
          git config --global "${{ vars.INFR_AI_BOT_EMAIL }}"
          echo "branch_name=pull-main-$GITHUB_SHA" >> "$GITHUB_OUTPUT"
          git checkout -b pull-main-$GITHUB_SHA
          git push origin pull-main-$GITHUB_SHA          
      - uses: actions/github-script@v7
          WORKING_BRANCH: ${{ steps.push_branch.outputs.branch_name }}
          github-token: ${{ secrets.PAT_TOKEN }}
          script: |
              owner: context.repo.owner,
              repo: context.repo.repo,
              title: 'chore: pull main branch into staging',
              head: process.env.WORKING_BRANCH,
              base: 'staging',
              body: 'Automatically generated pull request to merge changes from the main branch into the staging branch.'


By transitioning from GitFlow to GitHub’s PR workflow, we enhanced our development process, integrating modern code review practices. The automation with GitHub Actions further streamlined our workflow, allowing us to maintain stability and control across our branches. This journey underscores the importance of continually evolving our processes to leverage new tools and technologies effectively.