6 Agile Code Review Benefits that Highlight its Importance
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When developers think about code reviews, they don’t usually jump up and down for joy. Many might even contemplate running for the hills or the bush country. With remote teams, no running is required. They can already keep their head down and write code as they always do.
Why all the anxiety surrounding code reviews? Well, having to revise work you’ve already done is tedious for just about any of us. Won’t that all get tested and debugged later on?
While it’s easier to kick the can down the road, it’s not always the best practice. In this guide, we’ll explain how agile code review slots into your development process for the greater good.
What is Agile Code Review?
A code review is the process of examining developer code or pull requests. During a code review, more than just bugs are evaluated. Other areas reviewed include comments, code optimization, consistency, and design.
Agile code review is a process that combines pull request reviews with an agile development plan. This methodology allows you to optimize and clean code. Such operations run concurrently with processes such as continuous integration (CI) and continuous development (CD). Agile code review allows you to keep flexibility and adaptability during early development.
Let’s say you’re working on a feature that streamlines how to do call forwarding for users. Bloated code will only make later adjustments more difficult. Agile developers prefer to nip problems in the bud before delivering to the next stakeholder.
Four Types of Code Review
There are four main methods to implement code reviews.
Any developer in an office or cubicle knows that their peers may give their code a once-over from time to time. On-site developers can also ask colleagues for an impromptu review of their current project. It’s an easy way to ensure every team member knows how to write clear and neat code.
Email Code Reviews
The most common tactic employed by most developers is to use email code reviews. Once a programmer is done writing a section of code, it is emailed to team leaders or colleagues for review. This allows project collaborators to examine lines of code when convenient.
They send notes and requests via a two-way email conversation. The code author takes the feedback on board and rewrites sections until the code is approved.
An alternative to the write and rewrite cycle is giving real-time feedback. Pair programming is where two developers work together. In this agile code review process, the driver is responsible for writing the code. The navigator is responsible for evaluating the code and guiding it to its final destination.
With pair programming, the code review is happening as the lines of code are produced. This type of review workflow can be more effective and efficient. The caveat is the developers must be a good match and can work well together.
Code Review Tools
There are plenty of code review tools that streamline and quicken the process of code reviews. Typically, these apps provide a central space for storing, updating, and editing code. They allow for commentary and feedback between reviewers and programmers.
Inbound call center solutions provide managers with plenty of insightful call metrics. Why not expect the same for code reviews?
Use tools that let you dig deeper with code review analytics. They track metrics that help you adjust and improve your code review process for better performance.
Why is Agile Code Review Important?
Agile code review is important to developers for many reasons. One of the primary reasons is to maintain quality assurance. Reviews help you improve code quality before it is sent to the code base. Spotting errors and debugging in this phase builds a better product for your customers.
What about fixing problems during the testing phases? You can do that. In fact, you will be debugging at other stages of development anyway. However, isn’t it better to solve small problems in early development before they become big problems?
Code review is also a vital driver of team collaboration. It is a necessary activity to maintain regulatory compliance. Agile code reviews help you write code that is easy to understand and highly-modifiable.
Benefits of Agile Code Review
1. Better Code Optimization
One of the biggest benefits of agile code reviews is excellent code optimization. As a developer, you know what it’s like to be hyper-focused during a coding session. On your way to solving a problem or request, you’re latched on getting from point A to point B.
You aren’t likely concerned with writing the most efficient code possible. You want things to work. And when you’re finished with numberless lines of code, the last thing you want to do is review them.
With an agile code review system in place, a fresh set of eyes will give every line of code a look. Evaluating code you didn’t write makes it easier to cut out the fat and optimize before sending it off to base.
You can also use code review tools that use AI and machine learning models. These solutions can help speed up code optimization and other processes.
2. Higher Consistency
Most developers work long hours in isolation. Even in an office, once you get in the zone, the rest of the world disappears. Every developer brings unique ideas, methods, and experience to a line of code.
In other words, most developers work on their own and do things their own way. This is great for getting millions of lines of code out as quickly as possible. Agile code reviews add a safety net to implement standardization. When done correctly, reviews won’t slow down the development process.
3. Easier Compliance
We’ve just explained that agile code reviews improve optimization and standardization. Naturally, code reviews make it easier to comply with organizational and regulatory requirements.
In the State of Software Quality | Code Review 2021 report, it was found that 30% of developers gained easier compliance. And 25% of respondents benefited from streamlined internal audits.
With better code quality and consistency, you can seamlessly review code. It is easier to ensure compliance with standards like NIST password guidelines before product launch.
4. Foster Collaboration and Training
The agile code review process is an added step for collaboration. Code reviews help both internal and external developers gain guidance and feedback on their work. At the same time, they will review lines of code for colleagues and be able to add their unique understanding.
As your developers break down silos, good ideas will spread to the entire team. Code reviews help establish a positive learning environment for your development team. Team members can share new techniques, tools, and ideas during code reviews. In this way, the result can be greater than the sum of its parts.
5. Encourage Code Ownership
Agile code reviews necessitate the involvement of multiple team members for every task. Some team members may be reviewers only. However, their valuable contributions shape and standardize every line of code.
Each team member has a part to play in the review process. With greater ownership of each development project, you will nurture a “house-owned” code. You won’t suffer from unique codebases that reflect individuals over the organization.
Greater team-based ownership facilitates agile development. Agile programming demands that every team member can make changes to any code at any time when necessary. With more people involved, you will avoid any bottlenecks.
6. Enhanced Maintainability
Agile development has a 70% success rate compared to only 58% with traditional methods. An agile strategy allows for more flexibility with future iteration changes. This means you can update mini-modules versus having to upgrade a codebase in sequence.
Using agile code reviews gives you a head start for maintenance. With better optimization and standardization, future developers can more easily adjust or insert new lines of code. This works hand in hand with promoting team-wide ownership of all code.
Application maintainability will be helpful when implementing something like updated cybersecurity tech. It means team members can understand, modify, and test new code without any major hitches.
7. Builds a Positive Workplace
Code reviews open a line of communication between team members. Every member who contributes feels more involved in each project. Stakeholders are more involved. As your code quality improves, sprints will go smoothly and projects will deliver on time.
When teams communicate and own the work, everybody wins. Customers are happy with the finished product and developers are happy they can work efficiently.
Agile Code Review Best Practices
When used effectively, agile code reviews are invaluable to developers. The following are some best practices to consider with the code review process:
Create a code review checklist and a roadmap for reviewers. This can include examining elements like code readability, functionality, security, architecture, and any testing tools.
Incorporate code review metrics. Use a review assistance tool that lets you track important metrics like defect density, inspection rate, and defect rate. This will help you evaluate your review process and fine-tune it as needed.
Keep code reviews to under 60 minutes or less than 400 lines of code. You want to ensure review fatigue doesn’t set in. After a certain period, reviewers are less likely to identify errors and areas for improvement.
Encourage constructive feedback. The review process will go much smoother if the author does not feel personally attacked or placed on the defensive.
Stay Agile with Code Reviews
Maintaining an agile work environment is as crucial as ever. Agile code reviews may have a bit of a learning curve. Over time, they will turn your development process into a well-oiled machine that gets more code out in less time.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.