This blog is derived from the webinar, “Accelerate Releases Through Code Ownership with Collaborator and BugSnag”, focused on establishing a culture of code ownership and its benefits through the lens of the SmartBear tools Collaborator and BugSnag.
Taking a line from the SmartBear 2021 Annual State of Software Quality Report: "Quality is top of the mind for every individual and every team. Every developer has felt the pain of software releases that did not go well leading to customer calls and late nights. Quality software remains the insurance policy that continues to pay out."
Engineering teams must constantly catch and remediate defects in order to ensure stable, high-quality applications. Testing and monitoring methods are typically applied throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) - from initial development, through testing and into production. With each added stage in the process, the relative cost of the issue increases. By the time an issue proceeds undetected into production, the reputation of the brand is on the line.
One effective strategy to streamline bug identification and resolution through the SDLC is to leverage the practice of code ownership.
Code ownership is the idea that individual developers or teams are responsible for the features they create and deploy. For example, suppose that an ecommerce application has two teams responsible for user conversion and ecommerce. If there’s an error in the shopping cart, the ecommerce team owns the code and would be responsible for a fix. [source codeownership blog]
We see many teams adopting what is referred to as code stewardship, or weak code ownership, where teams of engineers take general responsibility over building, testing and maintaining certain parts of the application.
Minimizing Defects: “The proportion of reviewers without expertise shares a strong, increasing relationship with the likelihood of having post-release defects.” [Code Ownership and Review Study]. Naturally, developers familiar with a certain part of an application should be responsible for other processes around it, such as reviewing code changes. Developers who have contributed to a module or function may have a deeper understanding of specific dependencies, data requirements or other tricky circumstances that need to be met when new code is added, and can catch more issues or incorrect assumptions if they have navigated this themselves.
Efficiency: By allocating code review and error monitoring responsibilities to a module’s owners, these codeowners can review code changes more efficiently as they are often already up to speed on their module’s functionality and context.
Culture: A culture of ownership encourages developers to take initiative as the subject matter expert of their code and actively participate in the relevant technical decisions. Granting teams the ability to monitor their own parts of the code, triage, prioritize and resolve their own issues, and review code changes with their own requirements brings the flexibility to tailor decisions around the functionality they understand. This fosters a healthier development environment.
One example is tying error budgets to individual squads rather than defining this on the organization level. By doing so, teams can define their own error budgets and goals for their modules, which may bring more precision into those estimates on a company level.
Below are some challenges we hear from teams implementing code ownership principles around their existing structures:
BugSnag helps development teams identify stability issues in every release and provides actionable insights to prioritize and fix those with the greatest impact.
1. BugSnag's Alerting and Workflow Engine is an all-encompassing term for our many integrations with tools like Slack, JIRA and PagerDuty, as well as the intelligent logic layered on top to trigger and route alerts to the right people at the right times.
Customer story: A great example of an engineering organization that leveraged BugSnag’s features to transform the way they triage and resolve issues around a code ownership model is found here: https://www.bugsnag.com/customers/gusto
Collaborator adds a level of accountability with clear, documented review processes and cross-functional alignment to catch errors early in your SDLC.
The vast majority of defects are typically introduced in the coding/development phase of the SDLC, but are mostly undetected until later phases, such as pre-production testing (unit tests, functional tests and system tests) and production.
As seen below, an increasing number of bugs are typically found throughout the testing phases into release. The diagram highlights that the cost to repair a bug in a staging or production release is exponentially higher than a bug found during coding or early testing phases. This is in part because mean time to resolution is generally increased in later stages, and revenue or brand reputation can also take a hit when a bug is presented to your user base.
Given there is a direct relationship between the number of code reviewers and the quality of the code post-review, the goal becomes shifting error identification and resolution earlier towards the coding phase through more robust peer reviews, supported by a tool like Collaborator. This in turn shifts the “percentage defects found” curve to the left, and lowers the cost associated with remediating those repairs, from developer’s time, user experience and brand loyalty perspectives.
An ROI tool can be found on the Collaborator page, where you can drop in some basic figures for cost of developers, and quickly understand the advantages that early code review gives you as a return on investment. https://smartbear.com/product/collaborator/roi-calculator/
Collaborator and BugSnag in tandem allow teams to minimize the errors released into production with more thorough code reviews, while also providing robust monitoring and alert routing for those errors that do ultimately make it to your end users.
We can see an ideal workflow below, illustrating the following:
To view live demonstrations of this feedback loop in the context of both tools, take a look at our full Webinar here.