What is collaboration? Merriam-Webster states it is “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” We agree — coding is definitely an intellectual endeavor! Collaborating with others helps to reduce the stress of working independently. Cue the song: All by myself! Don’t wanna be all by myself anymore! Sorry, couldn’t resist getting that stuck in your head.
In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed how properly maintaining code is an essential part of delivering a quality product. Now, we’re going to discuss how effective team collaboration can boost code quality.
Be a Team Player!
How many times did you hear that while growing up? Being a team player was important in our youth and is still important as adults. Teams that work together can use their collective talents to improve quality and produce high-performing products.
Here are just a few benefits a development team can enjoy if everyone is a team player:
- Boost knowledge sharing
- Ensure smooth integration and testing
- Encourage peer reviews to compensate others’ weaknesses
- Raise awareness of progress/problems to move forward
- Achieve higher confidence in code quality
All of these points would be moot if you resist becoming a team player. A team is only as weak as its most ineffective member. (Psst … don’t be that guy — or gal! You know, the one who gets the sideways glances or aggravated sighs from the team due to unanswered emails.)
Take Off Those Blinders
When you encounter problems during development, the quickest fix is not always the best solution long term. Collaborating with your team can help you validate the solution and does not cause new problems in other areas of the product. You may be inspired to create elegant and effective solutions that would be more than just a short-term fix.
Quick and workaround solutions save time initially but are usually short-lived and costly long-term. Always search for the most effective solution. Collaboration plays a big part in this pursuit.
Our recommendation? Talk to other developers working up or downstream from your code. If you only worry about your own code, the solution you find may solve your issue but to the detriment of the system as a whole. Also, if you discuss the issue with another developer, they may have an “ah ha!” moment. Something they can do on their side may fix the problem for you. And who doesn’t like having to do less work for the same result?
Thinking long-term means the code should integrate and play well with the existing system. Effective solutions also involve using best practices. Make sure to be flexible, pay attention to, and understand/follow these practices and standards. After all, soldiers who don’t follow orders and decide their own way of behaving eliminate the whole unit and lose the war. (Hint: Communication + Using Best Practices = Winning)
Be open to new ideas.
Forward-thinking developers are a hot commodity! Imagining how the code will be maintained after it’s been created, offering valuable ideas and solutions to a problem, and creating a more efficient approach to building code. Compound these skills with a collaborative mindset? You’ll be worth your weight in gold (real gold, not the weight of a Bitcoin).
What does it mean to be open to new ideas? Well, for starters, take what we’re about to tell you and be receptive to the concept.
While researching this blog, we came across SmartBear’s 2018 State of Code Review and found it to be an eye-opening survey. Did you know that “55% of respondents choose ‘Workload’ as the top obstacle to conducting code reviews, followed by ‘Deadline/Time Constraints’ at 42%”? At last, we have the reassurance that we are not alone in our deadline pressures!
As we were so impressed with this survey, we set up a call with Patrick Londa, a Marketing Manager at SmartBear, to discuss the results. The key takeaway? The importance of using code review tools to effectively manage your workflow.
“When we ask developers about their code review process, we often get laughs or grimaces initially. It seems like an abstract thing to them, like they know they need to do it but it’s kind of a chore and gets in the way of the things they want to do otherwise, whether that’s building a new feature, etc. The more that teams can standardize and make it a seamless part of their process, the more willing they are to participate in reviews on a regular basis.”
– Patrick Londa, SmartBear Marketing Manager
Have you ever thought of code review as similar to doing the dishes or taking out the trash? Trust us, we’ve all been there. As luck would have it, “chores” and “work” do not have to be synonymous. Using code review tools, such as SmartBear’s Collaborator or Atlassian’s Crucible, can make the time spent conducting those reviews more productive than merely sending an email.
According to the survey, “For the third straight year [2016 – 2018], respondents identified code review as the #1 way to improve code quality.” Take that statistic and look at your own practices. When you actually take the time to do reviews, how do you track progress and results? Do you … just send emails? We certainly hope not!
Effective developers are great communicators.
In the end, effective collaboration is key to building amazing products. Be a team player who contributes to everyone’s success, search for the best solutions and not just the one that first comes to mind, and be open to new ideas your team members suggest.
Communication is the very foundation of collaboration. But it’s also about how you communicate that matters. Working to improve code quality takes more than just sending an email and hoping you receive a timely response.
We get it. Finding time to communicate in an already packed schedule can be a daunting task. So don’t waste time searching through emails to respond to work-related tasks! Take advantage of technology to help you … well, to help you build more technology! There are multiple collaboration tools available that can help optimize the number of hours in the day you spend working.
We’ll say it again. Teams that collaborate effectively will always produce more code in a shorter timespan and with higher quality. Think about this too: tools can help collaboration, but behaviors should also change. Reach out for assistance when you’re stuck, regularly share your code with others to get help during peer reviews, and be receptive to feedback from others.
After all, teams are all on the same ship. Every part of a team contributes to making it across the sea or sinking to the bottom. Don’t allow your product to sink to a watery graveyard! Keep it floating through team collaboration and, with hard work and a dash of luck, the ship will make it across the sea faster than others. We wish you fair winds and following seas!