Ajay Tamboli, an Electronics Tools and Infrastructure Lead for Whirlpool, develops software as part of a team of 150 electronic software engineers. The team is spread across eight software design centers in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Team members work together closely to develop software for applications embedded into appliance hardware—including washers, dryers, refrigerators, ovens and microwaves.
“When developing and reviewing software code, it’s critical that we identify any bugs early in the process, well before the code gets embedded into the control panels of the appliances,” Tamboli says. “Once an appliance is shipped to a retail store or customer, any changes to the code require an on-site visit to change out the control board, which impacts customer satisfaction.”
The cost of a code bug can thus add up to very significant sums given the number of appliances Whirlpool manufactures and ships as a $20B company. Tamboli and his colleagues also face the challenge of collaborating among a team of 150 software developers that are geographically dispersed.
“Getting team members together for code reviews is very challenging,” Tamboli says. “We work in time zones many hours apart, so many meetings previously required some of us to go online either very early in the morning or very late at night. This is not conducive to creating a productive environment where developers can all work at peak performance.”
To resolve this challenge, Whirlpool hoped to find a collaboration tool, like Collaborator, that would eliminate the need for software engineers to conduct real-time meetings for manually reviewing code. The team also hoped to create a database where open issues could be tracked to make sure all code issues are resolved as quickly as possible.
“By relying on SmartBear Collaborator for software code review, everyone on our team across the globe can see comments from reviewers and any changes applied to code during their regular working hours—there’s no more staying up late at night or waking up early to attend meetings.”
Ajay Tamboli - Electronics Tools and Infrastructure Lead Whirlpool
The need to accelerate the code review process and make it more efficient became mission-critical in 2010 as the Whirlpool embedded software team began to grow rapidly and rely on developers from the around the world. When a new software developer joined the team in 2010, Tamboli and his colleagues found the exact solution they needed: SmartBear’s peer code review tool, Collaborator.
“The developer’s previous employer relied on Collaborator for code reviews, and his experiences convinced us to take a close look,” Tamboli says. “During the trial, Collaborator worked so effectively that we did not even consider any other alternatives.”
SmartBear Collaborator helps the Whirlpool software development team work together to produce high-quality code. The solution allows the team to peer review code as well as user stories and test plans in a transparent, collaborative framework—while also keeping the team up to speed in real time on code changes. By enabling team members to work together to review their work, Collaborator helps Whirlpool catch bugs before embedded software is installed on appliance control panels.
Another key factor in convincing Whirlpool to implement Collaborator for code reviews is the ease with which the tool integrates with Whirlpool’s software code repository. “Integration between Collaborator and code repositories is a snap,” Tamboli says. “We were able to configure the connection with just a small amount of help from SmartBear.”
The overall deployment and on-going use of Collaborator has not required the Whirlpool team to take any special training or receive technical support from SmartBear to learn how to use the solution. “The software is very agile, lean and easy-to-use,” Tamboli says. “The entire team has enthusiastically adopted the model, and code reviews with Collaborator are now a mandatory component of our process.”
Benefits and Results
Whirlpool code reviews have become much more streamlined since deploying Collaborator, a stark contract to previously when code reviews used to be cumbersome. “With Collaborator, the entire team can smoothly interact on multiple projects, even if one team member is working from India with others working from North America and Europe,” Tamboli says. “We no longer have to coordinate manual reviews involving spreadsheets and conference call at odd hours—each of us can communicate code review changes on our own time.”
With Collaborator seamlessly integrated with the source code repository, the Whirlpool software developer team communicates through a shared platform, and each team member can easily see changes applied to source code. Managers can also review activity to track the progress of reviews and subsequent changes applied as a result of the reviews.
“Everyone can see what is taking place across all of their code review projects,” Tamboli says. “There’s no need to coordinate discussions among people spread across the world.”
The reports that Collaborator generates allow Whirlpool to track whether or not any code issues have been resolved. “Making sure code reviews take place properly is critical,” Tamboli says. “Collaborator makes it much easier to know the status of reviews and if the code reviews are done right. We can also escalate any open issues.”
In addition to facilitating code reviews, Collaborator has also helped the developers become more efficient at code development. They have even started conducting self-reviews before sending to code to their peers for further review. The overall enhanced process has thus enabled Whirlpool to accelerate the overall development process and deliver software to market faster.
“Because our developers receive documented, detailed feedback driven by SmartBear Collaborator, they can more easily improve their skills,” Tamboli says. “They can also see comments from previous development projects. So over time, we thus find fewer code issues. Ultimately, this results in better-performing appliances for our customers—a major factor in the company’s success.”
To coordinate code reviews among 150 electronic software engineers spread across the globe—so they can efficiently identify software bugs before code is embedded into appliance control panels and shipped to customers—Whirlpool turned to SmartBear’s peer code review tool, Collaborator. The solution helps the software development team work together to produce high-quality code. This accelerates the overall development process and delivers software to market faster while also resulting in better-performing appliances for Whirlpool customers.