In today's digital landscape, software development is a crucial aspect of most businesses. However, many organizations overlook the importance of code quality. Ensuring code quality is critical for various reasons, from financial stability to customer satisfaction.
We delve into how high-quality code positively impacts the company including developer satisfaction, the ease of upgrades and refactoring, cognitive load reduction, and referral rates. Let's explore the compelling reasons why code quality should be a top priority for any organization.
Predictability and transparency
Good code quality enables developers to focus on tasks that provide the most business value and consistently deliver them on time and on budget. When things go wrong, you’ll have insight into why that occurs.
Developers are more focused
Your developers are hired to create business value for your company, but low code quality results in a constant stream of distractions making it harder to create said value. If a developer is working on new functionality and an important bug occurs, they’ll need to switch to that task and then back again.
Context switching requires getting familiar with the task and the potential solution. Tackling incoming bugs and figuring out how parts of the system work (or why they don’t) will take time and focus away from the topic that’s already been started. When code quality is high, fewer surprises will occur that slow development work. And when they do occur, it’s easy to make the context switch.
Development pace is visible
Many teams create issues and track them on development boards. When code quality is low, each issue is a ticking time bomb. Which one has unknown dangers lurking just out of sight? With low code quality, even simple tasks are unpredictable. You can easily follow a trail of broken (yet unrelated) functionality until you end up shaving a yak.
This doesn’t occur with high quality products. Instead, tasks flow through the development board at a consistent pace, giving a clearer picture and identifying potential blockers. Work becomes more transparent and the dangers surface more quickly. This will enable your team to receive feedback faster and change course while it’s not too late.
The steady flow of completed tasks can be used for projecting future development pace, given the tasks are consistently broken down to well-sized work items. This visibility can help limit work-in-progress, which is an enemy to consistent work output.
Output is consistent
Predictability is an essential part of financial planning for any startup. Yet, planning becomes hard when you have a lot of unexpected work. Developers working with fragile code will find it difficult, if not impossible, to build stable functionality.
With an investment in quality, it will be easier for developers to make changes to the system. Your team will be able to deliver smaller valuable chunks, creating a rhythm that is predictable and consistent.
Financial planning is easier
The more efficient your engine, the less fuel it requires. Because of the above points, the cost for development will better align with expectations. This will allow your financial planning to be more accurate. You will not need to hire additional developers to meet the milestones you have committed to.
Engineers are expensive. With high-quality code, developer onboarding is faster, their cognitive load is reduced, and the system is easier to maintain. This allows fewer developers to build the system, reducing salary costs.
Developer onboarding is quicker
When new developers join a project, they need to learn how it is structured. The rules of the system might not be consistent, have quirks and exceptions in specific areas of the code, or aren’t even written down. The less time new developers need to spend learning about these rules, the faster they can start being productive.
Code quality is how developers can optimize this. It helps developers maintain consistency between different parts of the system, thereby making it easier to learn the rules and make changes.
The cognitive load is reduced
Developers are knowledge workers. They are paid to think. When code is complex, then they must spend a lot of time and energy thinking about specific portions of code. With improved code, developers can afford to focus on the important bits, technical challenges and domain responsibilities. This is a better way to spend their energy than an overly complicated bit of code related to an unimportant subsystem.
The product is easier to maintain
High quality code leads to a host of advantages by definition. This will allow engineers to more easily maintain the system. Dependencies become easier to manage; refactoring is a breeze; vendor code is decoupled. When bugs occur, it’s easier to find the source and fix them.
When it comes to changing or removing functionality, something startups often do, engineers can ship updates with confidence. They won’t have to worry about breaking things in other places. Good quality code makes this possible.
It all comes down to the bottom line. You need to find product-market fit and fast. The only way to do this is by learning from customers and incorporating that understanding into your product. It also helps to reduce churn.
Product managers will enjoy flexibility
When product managers process the feedback of customers, they’ll often find small improvements that will contribute to the overall experience. These small changes can be difficult to make when codebases lack quality.
A consistent pace of feature delivery allows the team to continue learning and testing the market. Your product will more quickly find market fit when the system is easy to change. By investing in the system, short-term priorities can be delivered faster without jeopardizing bigger milestones.
Customer churn is reduced
With a high quality code base, customer churn is reduced. They’ll experience fewer bugs and those that do arise can be fixed more quickly. A happy customer and word of mouth is better than paid advertisements.
Bugs and security issues
Code quality also impacts bugs and security issues, and it will decrease your technical debt. Not only can bugs be fixed more quickly, security risks can be mitigated through improved code quality.
Bugs are fixed more quickly
We’ve touched on it a few times, but it’s important enough to call out specifically. The easier code is to understand, the easier it is to figure out why a problem occurs. If code quality is high, developers can keep more of the codebase in their mind. This allows them to discern root causes without even having to debug, leading to more focused debugging and fixing sessions.
If a complex issue does occur, sometimes the best choice is to rollback changes to a previously known good state. In a codebase with high quality, this is a trivial operation, buying the team time to work on a robust fix for when things get hairy.
Security risks are reduced
Reviewing changed code becomes exponentially harder as code complexity increases. The impact of changes quickly becomes unclear due to unanticipated side effects. This makes introducing bugs — including security issues — harder to prevent as part of a review process.
No one wants to get hacked, and the best way to prevent this is to keep systems patched. Higher code quality makes updating dependencies to their latest versions easier. This enables your team to pull in security fixes from external code.
When a team is happy, they’ll be more likely to recommend other developers, those in their network, to join the company. An investment in code quality will encourage this. When it’s easy to read and the cognitive load is reduced, it becomes a joy to work with the code day-to-day.
Your team will be looking for a new job during their lunch break if the code is stressful to work with. Burnout is real and can be driven by needlessly complex systems. Complexity can cause deadlines to slip, putting excessive pressure on the team. This pressure affects the working environment directly.
Prevent this from happening by investing in code quality from the start. You’ll find a team of happy developers that are motivated to build the best system possible, one that is flexible and keeps customers happy.