Software development outsourcing: how to conduct code review

6 minute read
peer code review

Code review eliminates mistakes made during the development phase and enhances software quality.

Losses from software bugs reach almost $60 billion annually. Buggy applications damage a  company’s reputation and negatively affect customers. Depending on the application type, the effects range from inconvenient annoyances to privacy violations, and could even cost lives. 

One way to minimize errors in code and enhance app quality is to conduct a peer code review. Typically, it is performed by individuals not involved in writing the original code, allowing for unbiased assessments to be made through fresh eyes.

For better results, it is essential to involve a mature team well-versed in different technologies. Experienced developers can quickly understand someone else’s code and provide any necessary corrections in a timely manner. However, in an in-house team, it is not always possible to find independent experts. That is why many companies prefer to outsource code review to third-party organizations.

This approach is highly efficient yet challenging. Let’s consider some obstacles you may encounter and techniques you should use to facilitate an effective code review.

Challenges of code review in software development outsourcing

The primary challenge of outsourcing is finding the right code reviewer. Of course, it is much easier than hiring a developer for an in-house team since you don’t have to conduct multiple interviews and spend money on HR agencies. However, choosing a reliable partner takes time. If you do not have personal recommendations, you will need to arm yourself with patience and conduct in-depth research. Then, after you receive a detailed estimate from a few companies, you can choose your preferred option. 

With your partner of choice, you will need to agree on many details. Here are the challenges you may encounter:

Confidentiality. Providing the codebase to a third-party organization means exposing sensitive data and confidential information. Before deciding on this step, you need to ensure the partner’s reliability and back it up with a non-disclosure agreement.

Communication. The remote team may have a different mindset and attitude to work. So, if you decide to outsource software code reviews, set up the workflow beforehand. Schedule regular meetings and updates and agree on what you consider to be the final work result.

Disagreement in the code review process. You and your partners may have different opinions as to the code review techniques and the submitting of results. Therefore, it is crucial to agree on the review methodologies and technologies beforehand.

Undefined quality standards. Before starting the code review, you and your team should reach an understanding about the performance quality expected from the software. Explain to reviewers how the application should behave and what result you expect to receive.

Interpretation of results. Since the code review is done without the participation of your internal team, it is vital to provide review results in a clear and understandable way. Well-structured documentation will help your developers quickly make necessary changes and avoid similar issues in the future.

Code reviewing techniques: meetings vs. automation tools

There are two main ways to conduct a code review: manual and automatic. Manual code review is implemented by humans, while automatic code review is done with the help of special software.

Manual code review, in turn, can be of three types:

  1. Instant, when the reviewer sits next to the programmer and corrects the code instantly.  
  2. Ad hoc or synchronous, when the reviewer corrects the code shortly after it has been written and discusses their corrections with the coder.
  3. Meetings, when a group of experts corrects the code with or without the coder’s participation.

Code review outsourcing excludes instant and ad hoc checks because the outsourcing team is located far from the coders. Instead, it uses meetings or one-person checks in addition to automated code review with specialized tools.

Both methods have their pros and cons. You should choose the preferred method of code review based on the nature of your project. 

peer review programming

Top 5 best practices of code review

Code review should be approached holistically and be based on deep knowledge of the technologies in use. For example, imagine you are checking a literary text. In this case, you should pay attention not only to grammatical errors but also analyze the consistency of text, the accuracy of sentences, and the suitability of phrases. Things work the same way in the code review process. When implementing it, you should pay attention to the following:

  • Сlarity. Each line of code should be self-explanatory. No spaghetti code is acceptable. 
  • Functionality. Each piece of code should behave as the developer expects.
  • Simplicity. The code must not be more complex than necessary. 
  • Self-documenting. Classes, methods, and properties should have meaningful names.
  • Style. The code should adhere to the style of the chosen programming language.

To accomplish all of the above, reviewers should follow the code review best practices and recommendations:

Review up to 500 lines of code in an hour. According to the SmartBear report, this is the optimum speed at which the reviewer can inspect code and identify bugs. Reviewing less than 300-500 lines per hour indicates unproductive work while checking more than 500 lines overwhelms the reviewer and reduces their attention.

software code reviews
Source: SmartBear report

Define qualitative goals and metrics. If you want to order code review services, you probably have good reasons for this. Perhaps you want to reduce customer support calls by 20% or reduce downtime to one case per month. Setting clear goals will help to achieve your desired results faster. So if you want to enhance software quality, avoid abstract metrics such as “fix more bugs” or “remove more errors.”

Check out preparatory documentation. To make code review even more agile, reviewers should study the pre-development documentation. This may include user stories, technical requirements, design prototypes, etc. Analyzing such documentation can help reviewers better understand the project’s goals and more quickly identify possible errors.

Log and discuss bugs. The main goal of a code review is to get bug-free software. To achieve this, reviewers should record all issues found and discuss them with the authors of the code. In the outsourced cooperation model, when teams are far from each other, reviewers can use special tools for mutual work. With their help, they can perform a peer review with a programming team, log bugs, and discuss the results.

Delegate nit-picking to automation tools. While a human will faster identify major bugs related to the app logic and features implementation, the computer will more precisely check minor issues and eliminate non-critical but annoying errors. Therefore, it is best to combine human and computer resources and provide a comprehensive code review for more effective results.

Code review as a service

Code review aims to enhance the code quality by improving its readability and eliminating major and minor bugs. It is an absolute must for companies that value their reputation, care about customers, and have ambitious plans for future development. Code review gives a fresh look at the work done and helps to identify flaws that previous developers missed. If your team lacks specialists who can carry out this task, consider ordering a code review service from a third-party company. By choosing code review as a service, you receive many benefits, such as

  • zero HR costs on recruiting
  • easy access to qualified experts
  • fast work results

Using a third-party code review service can reduce your team’s technical debt without utilizing internal resources and disturbing in-house developers from their core tasks. If you want to hire code review experts, drop us a line. Our managers will gladly communicate all aspects of the code review process and advise on the most beneficial cooperation model for your company.

November 9, 2021