Refactoring And Building The Next Big Thing

Code refactoring is the process of restructuring existing computer code – changing the factoring – without changing its external behavior


Refactoring is important and necessary, but many times it gets pushed to the backlog. I want to make three point with this post. Why refactoring isn’t taken seriously. When to refactor. And changing refactoring habits. 

As developers, we are paid to build features and fix bugs to increase value for customers. From the project managers point of view, refactoring does neither one of them. So we can say that refactoring is for the developer. This realization gives us insights to why the time allocated to refactor, is so minimally. The PM’s would rather see new feature and bug fixed instead. Code doesn’t get refactored. We keep digging the hole deeper and deeper.


So when should we refactor? If we’re constantly swamped with tickets from our PM we’ll never have time to refactor. The solution? If we’re not given adequate time, we need to refactor in small batches. Tickets should be completed along side small incremental refactoring. This helps us release features reasonably and fix parts of the code. These little batches are now easier to work with and speeds up development time. These refactoring should be within the files we are currently working in. We shouldn’t go out of scope. This will keep us grounded to meet our deadlines.

These are some habits I have learned throughout out the months (1 year in November; Yay!). First following the TDD way (red, green, refactor). As a professional this didn’t fit our team’s agile approach. We refactor but test doesn’t drive our design. Next refactoring in chunks. Asking for time to refactor and going through our codebase to clean up dead code and smelly implementations. To be honest, this doesn’t happen to often. There is little time. So we end up having a larger than necessary codebase with dirty implementations.

I recently began refactoring while creating features and it’s been going great. I’m still not satisfied with the codebase, but I see little win’s over the map. This makes me happy as a developer. 

Credits goes to Ronald Jeffries, 3 founders of the Extreme Programming (XP), for inspiring me to think of refactoring in a different light. His original blog post can be found here: http://xprogramming.com/articles/refactoring-not-on-the-backlog/

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