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How To Find The Best Software Code Reviewers

code review

Want to know how to find the best software code reviewers?

You’ve come to the right place.

Bad code can destroy even the most innovative software applications. This is why you need to undertake a thorough code review to ensure your app is a success.

Other than the huge financial rewards that await companies that launch good apps, innovating in this industry also gives you the chance to improve the lives of so many people. Here’re a few amazing case studies of companies who hired DevTeam.Space to build their software products:

  1. Mejorate – Healthcare Android and iOS Application
  2. Airsign– Flight Mobile App and Web Application
  3. Fun And Function – Toy eCommerce App

Contents

Software code review: A brief overview
The importance of code review
When it’s about reviews, always start early!
Automated vs manual code reviews
How do you find the best software code reviewers?
Looking for competent code reviewers for your software development projects?

Software code review: A brief overview

It’s time for a brief recap. Why are we even talking about code reviews? Well, it’s because of the less-than-optimal success rate of software development projects.

A report by the “The Standish Group” states that 31.1% of software projects are likely to get canceled while 52.7% of them will see a budget overrun. Read more about this in “What is the failure rate of corporate custom software projects?”.

There are many reasons for this high failure rate, and they include code quality issues. Code quality issues impact many aspects of a software application, e.g., functionality, performance, reliability, availability, and maintainability. Read more about this in “Why software projects fail, and the traps you can avoid that could spell disaster”.

Software development teams utilize several techniques to improve the quality of their code. These techniques fall into two categories, namely, verification and validation. The verification process includes checking requirements, design, test plans, test cases, and code.

On the other hand, the validation process includes dynamic mechanisms like testing the code. Read more about their differences in “Difference between verification and validation with example”.

This brings us to code review, which is a systematic activity of reviewing another developers’ code. Code reviews are typically formal activities where experienced developers go through code written by a developer or a development team.

You could use tools for code review, or you might review code entirely manually. The key objective of it remains the same, which is to find errors in the code before it reaches the production environment. Read more about this in “What is code review?”.

The importance of code review

Why is a code review important? Code reviews offer many advantages to a software development team, e.g.:

  • Such review sessions help to identify obvious logical errors in the code.
  • A code review exercise can find out whether the code is doing what the requirements and design mention.
  • Code reviewers can identify whether the code conforms to the organizational standards and guidelines.
  • Structured code review sessions can indicate whether the software has adequate maintainability.
  • With the help of code reviews, a software development team can identify whether it has created enough test cases.

There are also longer-term advantages that an organization can get from code reviews:

  • A software development organization that has institutionalized code reviews improves its estimation models and tools.
  • Since code reviews tend to find bugs earlier, the organization has a better chance of adhering to the project schedule.
  • Code reviews reduce the stress in the team.
  • Organizations that have implemented code review processes see better sharing of knowledge, therefore, they have more competent developers in the long run.

Read more about the advantages of code reviews in “Why code reviews matter (and actually save time!)”.

When it’s about reviews, always start early!

Now that you understand the values of code reviews, it’s time to remember that it shouldn’t be the first iteration of reviews in your project! When working on a key software development project, your focus should be on finding defects early enough in the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Detecting defects earlier helps you to minimize rework, which helps you to keep the costs under control. Therefore, even before you embark on code reviews, put in place a process to cover the following:

  • Requirements reviews;
  • Design reviews;
  • Test plan and test case reviews.

These reviews should take place earlier than code reviews. Read more about the importance of overall software reviews in “Software review”.

Automated vs manual code reviews

While code review was entirely a manual activity earlier, in recent decades there are tools available to automate parts of it. As I have earlier explained in our guide “Build your own code review solution for your future projects”, automated code review tools can deliver quite a few advantages, e.g.:

  • They make it quicker to catch defects that we can consider as “low-hanging fruits”. A few examples of such defects are SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
  • You can schedule reviews or run them on-demand.

However, automated code review tools can do only so much and not everything! There’s no real substitute to experienced reviewers conducting a structured code review. Such manual reviews help in the following ways:

  • You can review the various logical paths in the code to detect errors, moreover, you can identify architectural or design flaws. This is a very detailed review, and automated tools can’t do this.
  • Manual code reviews help you to identify application security vulnerabilities like authorization, authentication, data validation, etc.

Most successful software development organizations employ a combination of automated tools and experienced reviewers for code reviews. Read more about this in “5 best practices for the perfect secure code review”.

How do you find the best software code reviewers?

Now that you have sufficient clarity about why you should have experienced code reviewers in your organization, I will explain how you can find them. Best code reviewers meet the following criteria:

1. Competent code reviewers are competent developers first

You see, software development is very different from the manufacturing industry. There is a considerable degree of abstraction in software development, therefore, only someone with significant hands-on experience with coding can understand what can go wrong.

If you are planning to onboard a competent code reviewer, then you should look for a competent developer first in him/her. The following criteria are important:

  • Competent software developers need high professional ethics, and this needs no explanation!
  • Decision-making capabilities are important in software developers as well as reviewers.
  • Competent code reviewers need to have a clear understanding of computer science fundamentals just as developers do.
  • The knowledge of modern programming languages is important. The programming language could vary depending on your project, e.g., Node.js for web app development, Kotlin/Java for native Android development, Swift for native iOS development, Python/Julia for AI/ML programming, etc.
  • Effective code reviewers need to understand SDLC well.
  • The knowledge of IT architecture is important to programmers and code reviewers alike.
  • Competent code reviewers need to know sufficiently about cloud computing platforms and popular development tools.
  • For effective code reviewers as well as developers, the knowledge of coding scalable apps is important.
  • An openness to collaborate is important to developers as well as code reviewers.

Read “How to find a good software developer” for more insights.

2. Smart code reviewers understand software defect prevention well

A code review exercise needs to be a structured one to be successful, and it should tie into the software quality management practices in your organization. You see, it’s not just about one code review session, rather, you need to implement a repeatable process of code review. This enables you to reap the benefits of code reviews across all of your software development projects.

Code reviewers should have a thorough understanding of software defect prevention processes and practices for this. This understanding must reflect in their practices when they undertake code reviews, e.g.:

  • Code reviewers must make note of versions of code and review code from the formally version-controlled code repository of the project.
  • Reviewers need to use the latest organizational coding guidelines and review checklists.
  • When they find defects, they need to document them diligently.
  • While documenting the defects, reviewers should identify the appropriate attributes of the defect, e.g., category, origin, severity, etc.
  • Software defect prevention requires your organization to use techniques like the “Root Cause Analysis” (RCA), and you will need to implement various preventive actions. Code reviewers must write their review reports with sufficient details so that you can use such techniques.
  • Code reviewers must document actionable insights so that your organization can use them to improve its defect prevention processes and practices. You don’t want the code review reports to contain vague information!

Read “Defect prevention methods and techniques” for more insights.

3. Expert code reviewers must be good leaders of people

Let’s remove one confusion first! We aren’t talking about finding project managers here who will double-up as code reviewers. It’s the leadership competencies that we are talking about here.

The success of a smart code reviewer isn’t confined to only finding all hidden defects in the code he/she has reviewed and reported them well. The experience should help the developers whose code the reviewer inspected.

As a result of the code review session, these developers should learn something valuable. This learning could cover programming language-related matters, good coding practices, etc. Developers should be able to use this knowledge to improve their work in the future, which delivers sustained value to your organization.

Such empowerment is possible when you have a good leader! Read “Importance of leadership” for more insights. Good leadership on the part of the code reviewer can bring this positive change in the developers whose code he/she has reviewed.

Code reviewers can’t just go about the tasks of finding defects in the code and recording them mechanically. They need to explain the defects to the developers in an effective manner.

Effectively, this amounts to code reviewers giving clear feedback to developers. Reviewers need to give this feedback in an honest and caring manner, which fosters accountability. The objective of a code review session isn’t to find faults, rather, such review sessions intend to drive improvement.

Developers whose code is being reviewed should be able to trust the reviewer, and this requires the review comments to be objective. Reviewers should give review comments as clearly as possible so that the comments help the programmers to understand where they need to do better.

Giving feedback in such an honest and caring manner is key to successful leadership, and you should onboard reviewers that have this competency. You can read “Collaborative feedback: Creating accountability” to learn more about this.

4. Competent code reviewers need in-depth knowledge about application security risks

You will need to mitigate application security risks proactively. Some industries are subject to stringent data security regulations since they handle sensitive information. If you are developing an app for such an industry, the importance of application security increases manifold!

Application security vulnerabilities can’t be unearthed by testing alone, and code review is very important here. While some code review tools can identify a few such vulnerabilities, there’s no substitute for manual code reviews for this.

Code reviewers you onboard should have in-depth knowledge about top application security risks. These vulnerabilities are as follows:

  • Injection;
  • Broken authentication;
  • Sensitive data exposure;
  • XML external entities (XXE);
  • Broken access control;
  • Security misconfiguration;
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS);
  • Insecure deserialization;
  • Using components with known vulnerabilities;
  • Insufficient logging and monitoring.

You need code reviewers that know how to look for such vulnerabilities in the code. The “Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) top 10 application security risks – 2017” report describes these risks well, and you can refer to it.

Looking for competent code reviewers for your software development projects?

While testing is important, you can’t depend on that alone to unearth bugs in your code. You need a robust code review in your project, and this requires expert code reviewers. It’s not easy to find competent code reviewers, and you should work with software development companies with a robust track record.

We at DevTeam.Space can help you with code reviews. Our capabilities in this area are well-known, and you can judge it by reading our guide “Code review checklist: Stop producing bugs now!”.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a software code review?

This is a systematic review of code in order to check its integrity and to make sure it is free from errors and bugs. Such reviews should be carried out by experienced code reviewers such as those at DevTeam.Space.

What is the best code review tool?

Phabricator Differential is widely seen as one of the best automated code review tools. It is open source so free to use and is able to detect a wide range of code errors.

What types of defects are really discovered in code reviews?

Everything from small errors which cause performance lag to huge security errors that leave an application open to attack by hackers can be detected by a comprehensive code review.

DevTeam.Space is a vetted community of expert dev teams supported by an AI-powered agile process.

Companies like Samsung, Airbus, NEC, and startups rely on us to build great online products. We can help you too, by enabling you to hire and effortlessly manage expert developers.

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