Software companies have tried to measure productivity with time tracking, counting closed bugs, and, infamously, by counting lines of code. But what are organizations doing about the time developers lose waiting for code review?
As an industry, we obsess over the 10x developer and ignore small changes to improve the productivity of every developer. One small change: treat code reviews like work.
An IEEE study titled “Code Reviewing in the Trenches” by researchers at Microsoft found code authors aren’t getting timely reviews, and code reviewers aren’t given enough time to do the reviews they’re assigned. This is a problem.
In 2013, Peter Rigby and Christian Bird—both empirical software engineering researchers—found similar median review times among projects as varied as Google’s Chromium and Microsoft’s Office suite. Compared with the outdated industrial process of software inspection, their study’s modern code review practices were faster, easier, and less formal. Software inspection took 10 days to review a change; projects in their study took one day to review a change.
In 2018, Google compared Rigby and Bird’s findings with review data from inside their company. Among their findings, they discovered reviews inside Google were considerably faster than the reviews from Rigby and Bird’s study—the median time to review code inside Google was about an hour.