The consequences of poor code quality

Now that you have a better understanding of code quality it seems essentiel to better understand why measuring it is so critical to your business success.

Why should you care about code quality ?

High quality products are usually cheaper to produce, are much cheaper to maintain, and bring high levels of customer loyalty.

Defining and measuring quality is the key to take your software factory to the next step.

With universally recognized metrics you give a clear achievable goal to all stakeholders towards sustainable software development. With this set up you will be capable of investigating where your weaknesses lie and where to automate and accelerate code quality within your project constraints. Consolidating a set of code quality metrics enables you to build high quality software fast without creating any added risk in the process.

On the contrary without proper metrics you will inevitably create defects with the same scale you create software and the impact over your business can only be proportional to the amount of defects created. Moreover low code quality introduces risks for our IT security.

If code quality has not been properly prioritized until now it’s because of lacking technology, and inadequate tooling which created a preconceived idea that quality work always jeopardizes speed and innovation. Most companies associate defect detection with delays and consequently try to work faster with low quality standards. This strategy participates in creating today’s technical debt and slows down tomorrow's speed to deliver.

With the increasing awareness over the importance of code quality we have seen companies investing internally and externally in purchasing or creating the proper tooling to help them achieve code quality without deteriorating time to deliver and innovation. Good visibility over code quality thanks to the right set of metrics and the support of the right processes and tools to achieve those goals have changed the perspective. From the biggest software vendors to the early stage startup, everybody can and should start to investigate where automation and tooling can be implemented in order to safeguard quality targets within the project constraints.

What is the cost of poor code quality?

The best way to clarify why you should worry about your approach to code quality is to summarize the direct and indirect consequences of it and how poor code quality affects your business:

Cost of business

Let’s start with the most sensitive one. Just to put things in perspective and according to a 2018 Google Adwords Survey France, 53% of users leave a page when it doesn’t load in less than 3 sec. These high user expectations when unfulfilled lead to deteriorate the company’s capacity to attract and retain users and for internal services to maintain the company productivity. Bugs and flaws are the source of direct damage for the user experience and deteriorate trust and loyalty from your customers and even from your employees (see cost of human resources) when it gets to internal tools.

Cost of lost knowledge

Since code quality is linked to documentation, test and maintenance practices it is easy to link poor code quality to a low capacity of retaining and sharing knowledge over the codebase across the organization. Poor code quality means that new developers work from scratch out of lack of proper documentation and that your IT intelligence is not incremental but more likely flatlining. 

Cost of manipulation

Cost of manipulation echoes the cost of lost knowledge. That lost knowledge also creates resistance to change out of fear of precipitating bugs when manipulating legacy code. Whenever engineers want to optimize the code, refactor it or build on top of it poor code quality increases the risk of regressions and slows down the speed at which developers will work their way through. It creates fear and uncertainty and generates time consuming debugging for the developers. Refer to our what is shift left testing to find out how code quality through unit testing can help organizations reduce this.

Cost of brand image deterioration

Bugs and regressions in production are brand reputation killers. Simple as that.

Cost of human resources

Poor code quality leads to higher staff turnover and deteriorates your brand reputation which is one of the strongest talent acquisition factors for the software engineer profiles.

Poor code quality is just as much of a vicious circle as good quality can be a virtuous one. Once you have created visibility over code quality with the right set of key performance indicators you are now equipped to let every programmer quickly understand and manipulate the code and increase the overall confidence to work with the codebase. Ultimately you can refocus senior developers away from code reviews and bug fixes and toward architecture, innovation and team management.

In the meantime spending less time on technical debt means refocusing resources on avoiding to build additional debt through exhaustive testing, documentation and refactoring. While reducing task shifting you also increase your developers satisfaction and the barriers to reach high code quality targets are suddenly lower than ever before.

Healthy code will have a ripple effect throughout your organization and help you increase the shareability and flexibility without jeopardizing robustness, safety and ultimately the overall sustainability of your IT assets.  

First Assessment

Take a minute to make a first assessment of where your code quality strategy is at? Try to answer the following questions.

• Where are you at?

• What’s the current state of your code quality monitoring?

• Who takes ownership?

• Who in your team has been given time, ressources and ownership of code quality monitoring?

• Do you feel comfortable with what you have?

• Do you think that you are properly equipped with metrics to analyze and improve the quality of your software development lifecycle?

• What did you wish was done?

• The genius from the bottle grants you one code quality wish. What is it? Now think of paving the way with achievable steps to tend toward your goal.

• What comes in the way of code quality?

You have now built a solid understanding of the importance of code quality and its impact over business. It’s time to explore metrics and get a little technical so that tech and non tech stakeholders around your project can talk a similar language and set targets supporting the success of your project. 

See our next article --> How to measure code quality?

References 

The Developer Coefficient-Stripe Harris

Métriques et critères d'évaluation de la qualité du code source d’un logiciel - Pierre Mengal

Iso25000.com

Comparison of the SIG Maintainability Model and the Maintainability Index - Frank R. Oppedijk

Sustainable software development

2018 Google Adwords Survey France

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