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Escaping the Vicious Cycle of Software Development

If you’ve spent any amount of time working with software professionally, chances are you’ve experienced the vicious cycle of development (if you haven’t, take a moment to count your blessings then read on for a cautionary tale):

High pressure situations place strain on developers, which leads to sloppy work, resulting in software being delivered late and broken – when it’s delivered at all.

Instead of being pressure-driven, as in the cycle pictured above, we’re aiming for a “virtuous cycle” which focuses on quality:

A focus on quality leaves individual contributors feeling satisfied, which makes them more engaged. That engagement leads to a sense of responsibility over the product and the code. A sense of responsibility and ownership leads to higher quality work, and the cycle starts over again.

Here at Code Climate we have experience as software engineers, engineering managers, product owners, and startup founders – and in all those roles we’ve seen evidence that a commitment to code quality has amazing benefits. Over time your codebase will become healthier, making it easier to change, more fun to work with, and your features will be easier to implement. As a result your code will be more reliable when it runs, bringing benefits to your business. Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, breaking out of a vicious cycle is challenging because the cycle feeds on itself and doesn’t allow much time for the work needed to establish good practices. But while there is work involved, it’s definitely not impossible, and good tools and advice can help you beat the clock and replace your vicious cycle with a culture of code quality.

We’ve identified steps you can take to move toward a sustainable culture of code quality, no matter what kind of code you’re working with:

  • Codify your best practices
  • Automate, automate, automate
  • Get the right info to the right people
  • Measure your progress
  • Encourage participation and ownership

In our next installment we’ll dive into each of these steps, and give you a roadmap for building a culture of quality.

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