Code reviews are manual processes that require organization, steadiness, and equilibrium. Here, we will cover the top 5 reasons why code review is important and needed in any software project.
When companies think about code reviews, they commonly imagine a time expensive activity for technical leaders, a pointless utopia with a full team with functional and QA resources, a manual task in an automated industry with development processes like Test-driven Development (TDD), self-documented APIs, and source code analyzing software.
The truth is that code reviews are manual processes that require organization, steadiness, and equilibrium. However, this technique can also transform the way development teams work intrinsically to improve quality and promote culture and communication.
Thinking about this, in the next lines, we will cover the top 5 reasons why code review is important and needed in any software project. We will also look at some strategies to match the client’s needs, as well as the possibilities to create a code review structure.
5. Because not everything is automatic
Even if we have a full-size development team and a toolkit full of plug-ins, developers need a guideline, a rule, to rely on and learn the programming style the project needs.
The manual process of code reviewing consists of text files comparison, checking the changes included by a developer in the new version. The reviewer (a developer, leader, manager, etc.) needs to be a highly experienced person that puts focus on the way the change is implemented rather than the functional added value.
Code reviews are needed in order to double click on those changes that can have an impact on the rest of the system. Developers and reviewers can find a place in the middle to align creativity and system stability.
4. Because you get better quality and system performance
Code reviews are supposed to put focus on valid pieces of code that can compromise performance and not discovered runtime errors.
Normally, a production environment has more data than other stages, and performance issues are sometimes noticed too late throughout the development process. Code reviews give another technical view on data access to avoid these bottlenecks.
Runtime errors are also another weak point that can be reduced if we have another opinion about a totally valid and compiled chunk of code following some basic rules about clean code.
3. Because it allows you traceability and security
Code review software suites give Project Managers the possibility of tracking the code formally, getting not only the author of a particular change in the history but also the reviewer that approved the change.
On the other hand, when things go bad, developers can demonstrate that a particular change was valid at a moment to avoid pointing the finger at a particular person. Code Review Systems let developers add more than one person to the revision process if we are facing a big impact change.
2. Because it allows team cooperation
Cooperation and personal engagement in the IT industry are two of the most difficult values to promote in a company. Code reviews need that both parties, author and reviewers, remain confluent in a discussion, an active bidirectional communication that can help reinforce team relationships, stimulate meetings, IM chats, or any kind of contact that inexorably advances personal aspects.
1. Because it improves Knowledge Rendezvous
Finally, the most recognizable reward in a team that uses code reviews is the culture built by the conversation and the knowledge that is transmitted more effectively than documentation reading.
Code reviews create a rendezvous (French word that means a reunion or meeting point) where every part of the team can share their perspective and discover new ways of doing the same. Knowledge and empowerment are the collateral effects for every participant, and the positive impact on the team turn code reviews into a social network in which the community works together with a common purpose. It can have difficulties at the beginning, but it is a must have on every IT project.
Do not miss this: How to become a code review master
Of course, code reviews are part of a methodology that is hard to implement in the beginning, so here are some tips for Managers to get the best out of this practice.
1. Think about the structure of the reviews according to the team size
Medium or small teams (less than five people): With this strategy, the team leader can receive all the reviews from the team in the early stages of the development. This way, we can start a warming up process where developers can see how reviews work and what to consider when checking another’s code. Once the whole team has gained some experience, the leader can enable reviews between peers.
Large teams: If a team has few technical leaders and many Senior developers, a pyramid structure can be the solution to start making reviews. This means internal staff, Juniors, and Semi-senior developers can send their reviews to upper levels, adding seniors and architects as reviewers. Senior developers can request reviews from their coworkers with the same seniority and up. Architects can only request reviews, if necessary, from other technical leaders.
2. Choose the best matching code review system
There is a variety of suites in the market to implement code reviews. Some of them allow adding more than one reviewer and can have a score module where the team can vote for a particular change to be included.
Other systems have the chance to retain a change set until the reviewers approve it, or there are others where a discussion between author and reviewers takes place.
Between all the choices we have for code reviewing, the following suites are the most used in the market. There are Open Source and paid options with different features:
- #1 Review Assistant (visual studio extension)
- #2 Gerrit (open source, build over Git SCM)
- #3 Codestriker (online and open source)
- #4 Phabricator (open source pre-commit code review)
- #5 Crucible (part of the Atlassian family of products)
3. Elaborate a code review’s policy for the team
For developing large or critical projects, the Manager can decide that all changes from the team need a code review to include the feature into the system. On other projects, you only need code reviews for new features, leaving the bugs out of the approval process.
In most cases, code reviews take place before submitting the code to the Source Control Management systems (SCM). But if it’s not possible to do this in a project, you can always do this manually, choosing a Victim File to review, giving feedback to the authors, and starting the discussion from that.
4. Promote the culture
Developers should be open to constructive criticism about their implementations. The idea is to have another point of view about a problem and the solution to start a discussion focused on using the best approach to accomplish all the requirements.
Show the benefits and make the team feel more secure using code reviews. Use Code reviews to introduce new developers to the team gradually.
In a few words
So, why is code review important in any software development project? The answer is easy: It can transform the way a development team works by improving their communication skills, knowledge of the business, product quality, and off cycle support. The technique will certainly become the key to your project’s success.
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