5 Business Benefits of Software Reengineering and Refactoring
Let’s face it, software reengineering is not something developers love doing or managers gladly agree to. In the words of Martin Fowler, the father of the code smell notion, refactoring is the process of changing a software system to improve its internal structure without altering the external behavior of the code. Basically, it’s enhancing the code’s design without any obvious business value. Sounds counter-productive. But in reality refactoring and reengineering are essential to software evolution and maintenance. Their main goal is to ensure software is maintainable and useful throughout its lifetime. And while code refactoring seems like something only developers can make use of, it’s ultimately a business decision. Here are five business benefits of refactoring and reverse engineering.
Software Reengineering Cost
It may not make much sense when you hear that rewriting the already written code is cost-effective but hear us out. Refining and enhancing the existing code now will save you money down the road. Here is some basic math, done by John Virgolino to prove it. The reason why in most cases it’s true is simple: every software system (except maybe the really small and basic ones) is built iteratively. You start from the core and basic functions like user management and authorization, validation of any user input, billing system, etc. After that, you add the business-value features like multi-tier catalog, suggestion system, advanced analytic system and any other useful functions. So, by improving the code in the core, you’re improving the existing and future functionality. Also, you can refactor the core so that it is ready for some future features you didn’t think about six months ago. In short, it’s easier to fit another box in the storage when it’s neat and tidy. Also, depending on the system, refactoring cost could even pay off immediately after it has been implemented. Here’s why.
Quite often refactored code is running faster. That’s because developers already know how the current system uses resources. They already know what SQL queries are always called together and can be combined. They saw the system working in production or some kind of a staging environment where the load is close to real-life conditions. And good performance is always favorable. It means quicker system response – something you, your customers and even developers will appreciate when creating new awesome features.
There are many examples when software refactoring and reengineering improved performance of the system and here are three to illustrate that.
There is always an element of risk in developing new software. Meaning, there may be problems with development, staffing or specification. Refactoring has an incremental approach to system improvement rather than radical system replacement. There are fewer chances of losing critical business knowledge or producing a system that doesn’t meet its users’ needs when you refactor. Since it can be carried out in stages, your business always has a working system by its side, while the end users are given a chance to gradually and easily adapt to the reengineered part. Also, re-engineering a system piece by piece helps new employees learn your business needs, undocumented features and quirks.
While redoing everything from scratch can put your business to the next level, the risks and costs are likely to skyrocket. So, refactoring may not be the fastest way to grow your business, but is probably among the safest. Incremental software reengineering controls the level of risk, says Michael R. Olsem in his work “An incremental approach to software systems re-engineering.” The keyword here is “incremental”. Without it, reengineering could end up in two different, incompatible software systems. The principles of Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment will help you out here.
Always Ready for Enhancements
As we’ve already mentioned, a lot of software development involves enhancing an existing system rather than creating a new one. The code should be structured in a way that welcomes new features. Users got used to software updates every six months or even less, markets are constantly changing and adding new features to your software means being up to date.
Max Kanat-Alexander, the author of “Code simplicity,” suggests in his article that it will take less time to do a good job of putting the system in order first before starting to add new features. To prove that, he recalls how his team finished projects faster than teams who were working on newer codebases with better tools when they did so.
“Ok, that sounds convincing,” you say,” but what if I don’t have strict deadlines for new features? What if I skip refactoring and only concentrate on developing new stuff?” That is a slippery slope in software development. Let us introduce you to mister Debt. Technical Debt.
It’s very rare for the architecture of a software system to be perfect from the start. Without any kind of refactoring, sooner or later it will be nearly impossible to add new features to the system.
And Don’t Forget About Reverse Engineering
Reverse engineering is worth considering if an existing system that has gained user trust and confidence requires modernization. In that case, it would allow creating a serious software product in no time. Reverse engineering is also a good software security test. It is widely used to ensure that the system doesn’t have any major security flaws or vulnerabilities. It helps to make a system robust and protects it from hackers and spyware.
In this ever-changing world, software has to be maintainable, reusable and extensibility-friendly to satisfy customers and beat competitors. Software becomes increasingly more complicated, and ignoring technical debt by skipping refactoring will eventually come back and haunt your business. And if you’re just starting the next killer app, reengineering is a practice worth considering. Maybe that old, scratched CD with a bunch of C code and a nerdy developer is everything your company needs right now.
You can find examples of successful long-running software projects that have no “refactoring” stages. But that’s only because developers are refactoring the existing code consistently. You don’t have to stop the development process and plan to refactor. Good technical leaders and software architects do it anyway. So, if you have a great team of developers, your software product has, probably, already been refactored multiple times. If you don’t – just contact Skelia for an extended team of professional developers.