Case Study: Global Leader in the Power Industry

SmartBear Collaborator Reduces Code Review Time by 50% and Helps Discover Code Defects Earlier in the Development Lifecycle.

Business Need

For the manager of the code review team at this publicly-traded firm in the power industry, the notion of deploying a code review management solution all started when he came across a free book: “Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review,” published by SmartBear.

“That book opened our eyes to the benefits of an automated code-review process,” the manager reveals. “Up until that time, we were not conducting formal code reviews. We managed the process offline and in-person by printing out documents to PDF files and sharing them among developers.”

The manager realized the reviews were taking too long, which delayed software development lifecycles. Review meetings among the developers, which numbered anywhere from four to eight resources depending on the complexity of the application, were not always run efficiently.

This was particularly true on projects where developers from of the headquarters worked with developers from the offices in India and China. Collaborating with each other over the phone on physical documents proved inefficient.

“With the time zone differences, developers would sometimes begin their review meetings having not yet seen the code created by the primary developer,” the manager explains. “When you have a group trying to work through code review over the phone, this approach can be annoying and take a long time. We needed to make the code review process a lot more streamlined.”

"Code reviews that flow smoothly also improve the quality of the reviews. When reviewers can work efficiently and are not distracted by having to manually track down documents, their concentration is more focused, and they work more quickly. Collaborator makes this possible by bringing all the reviews into one system and presenting the information clearly in real time for all to see"
Manager at Global Leader in the Power Industry,

Targeted Solution

After reading the SmartBear book, the manager knew the answer to his challenge would come from SmartBear Collaborator, a code review and document review solution. By enabling software development teams to review user stories, requirements and code through one interface within a centralized system, Collaborator facilitates communication across dispersed teams so they can more easily develop quality software.

“After a test run with one of our developer teams, we could clearly see how much easier Collaborator would make it for us to conduct code reviews,” the manager says. “Given its low cost, we did not feel there was a need to consider any other solution.”

Following the test run, Collaborator was then rolled out to the other software development teams within the business unit. Approximately 180 developers and code testers now interact extensively with the solution, and Collaborator plays an integral role in all software development workflows.

“Another key feature of Collaborator is that it integrates easily with SCM (software configuration management) systems,” the manager adds. “We currently use IBM Rational ClearCase and plan to start using PTC Integrity. Collaborator gives us the flexibility to use the SCM we prefer.”

The manager is also pleased that Collaborator expanded its capabilities beyond reviewing code and text files to allow his teams to review and track the reviews of Microsoft Office and PDF documents. This is key because design documents are predominantly created in Microsoft Word, and many others lend themselves to PDF formatting.

The grouping function provided by Collaborator is another plus. “We are cognizant about protecting intellectual property,” the manager explains. “Collaborator allows each organization within the company to keep its own instance to store reviews so that they are not visible to other organizations. This lets us maintain confidentiality when necessary.”

Benefits and Results

Since the deployment of SmartBear Collaborator, the manager estimates that the amount of time code reviews require has been cut in half. Even more importantly, Collaborator allows the software teams to identify code issues earlier in the development lifecycle—when the cost to mitigate defects is much less compared to fixing defects discovered later in the cycle.

“Code reviews that flow smoothly also improve the quality of the reviews,” he points out. “When reviewers can work efficiently and are not distracted by having to manually track down documents, their concentration is more focused, and they work more quickly. Collaborator makes this possible by bringing all the reviews into one system and presenting the information clearly in real time for all to see.”

Collaborator has proven particularly valuable when developers in India and China need to work with developers in the US.  Those based in Asia can create code during their regular work days, and while they sleep, the US team can conduct the reviews and submit their comments to the Collaborator system. When the developers in Asia go back to work the next day, the reviews are waiting for them, and they can get to work right away on addressing any issues.

With a streamlined, automated solution like Collaborator, the software team also avoids situations of implied consent—where reviewers are given a specified time to complete their review, and if they don’t respond, the code author assumes they did not find any defects. “With Collaborator, we can force reviewers to log in and declare their findings,” says the manager. “Collaborator ensures all comments are heard and addressed, and developers can’t move on until they fix every issue.”

Another key benefit for the software team is the reporting offered by Collaborator. “We can see how much time is spent on each review to know if the review was completed thoroughly,” the manager says. “Collaborator reports also help us conduct annual performance evaluations since we can see the number of reviews each resource completes, how much time they spent on reviews, and the number of defects they found.”

Looking ahead, the software team plans to expand the reporting function to help analyze how to enhance the process for connecting technical reviews, and to utilize reports more systemically so they can be incorporated into quality metrics. “The promise of the SmartBear book has truly paid off,” the manager concludes. “Collaborator is key component of our software development lifecycle and helps us produce quality applications that enable our products to perform optimally.”

Business Challenges

  • Streamline code reviews to help reviewers produce higher-quality reviews.
  • Shorten the amount of time spent on code reviews.
  • Facilitate collaboration between teams in the US and teams in Asia.
  • Enable reviewers to evaluate code in advance of meetings with primary developers.

SmartBear Collaborator

  • Streamlines reviews of user stories, requirements and code.
  • Facilitates communication across geographically-dispersed teams.
  • Integrates easily with software configuration management systems.
  • Expands review capabilities to Microsoft Office and PDF documents.
  • Isolates reviews conducted by different business units to protect intellectual property.

Measurable Results

  • Reduces code review time by 50%.
  • Enables defects to be discovered earlier in the development lifecycle.
  • Ensures all required reviews are completed before allowing development to proceed.
  • Creates a mechanism for tracking defects.
  • Assists management in evaluating reviewer performance.

All company names and/or products referenced herein are either registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective trademark holders.