The benefits of code quality

Emerging technologies assist in quantifying and managing code construction and its affect on an application's quality. But they're only part of the solution.
Posted September 1, 1999

Linda G. Hayes

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If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, where does quality fit in? There are undoubtedly aspects of quality in how an application appears and behaves, but what about what you don’t see? What about the quality of construction?

Software applications may be appealing and powerful on the outside but overly complex and fragile underneath. For example, code that does not follow naming or documentation conventions, is excessively interdependent or complex, or is simply poorly structured can cause minor changes to have a major--and too often unexpected--impact.

An entire discipline of software quality revolves around the way the code itself is constructed and how it affects the quality of the application. In fact, some argue that more defects can be removed through thorough code inspections--static review of the code by others--than through code-level testing--which involves execution by the development author.

Once you lose control of your code, it’s almost impossible to get it back without rewriting it.
Not surprisingly, emerging technologies are available to assist in quantifying and managing this aspect of development and testing. From a software testing perspective, these technologies have merit. While such products are not 100% of the solution--you still need system testing--they are an important component.

A competitive advantage

Peter Sliwkowski, vice president of core product development and product management for applications tools vendor Progress Software Corp., in Bedford, Mass., has implemented one of these new products with interesting results and advice. Sliwkowski is responsible for a Progress product unit with a $250 million annual budget, which encompasses 150 professionals and about six million lines of code across all of the products.

About a year ago, his area acquired well over one million lines of source code from a third party and needed to understand how to move forward with enhancements and modifications. Concurrently, Progress’ Y2K remediation effort was underway and Sliwkowski needed a roadmap to guide the developers through the process of identifying and remediating any problem code, then testing the changes for accuracy and completeness. He chose Burlington, Mass.-based Software Emancipation Technology Inc.’s DISCOVER product set, which is a complete solution for managing large, complex software development projects composed of C and C++ code.

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