Code quality 'sacrificed to hit deadlines'

When asked which factors contribute to poor software quality, 40 per cent of developers attributed it to manual processes, while a further 40 per cent cited unrealistic schedules.

This is according to Diffblue survey conducted by Vanson Bourne among 300 participants - 200 in the US and 100 in the UK - who work in software development, application development and DevOps in sub-executive-level roles at companies with at least 500 employees, across various sectors.

Organisations often set 'code coverage' targets for developers to achieve, which requires writing unit tests to ensure software quality, Diffblue explained. The study revealed that the average code coverage target for organisations is 63 per cent.

Most developers agree that unit tests improve software quality (90 per cent) and speed up code maintenance (95per cent), but to meet their coverage goals, developers spend 35 per cent of their time writing tests, and 20 per cent of their time just writing unit tests. Even so, almost half (48 per cent) of developers agreed that they sometimes find it difficult to achieve the unit testing coverage set by their organisations.

In addition to code coverage targets, developers are also under pressure to deliver new production code, which takes 29 per cent of their time. According to the survey, 42 per cent of developers said they have skipped writing unit tests in order to speed up new feature development.

The research also found that introducing the right tools, especially tools that automate repetitive manual tasks, is important to developer job satisfaction, with 73 per cent of developers in the UK reporting they could be more satisfied in their jobs. For most, their organisation’s willingness to adopt new technology is important to job satisfaction (84 per cent agreed), as is having realistic targets (87 per cent).

The survey showed that 82 per cent of developers in the US and UK would rather spend their time on creative tasks, such as developing new product features, than on repetitive tasks.

When it came to writing the unit tests necessary to meet internal coverage targets, 66 per cent agreed that unit test setup is mundane and 39 per cent wished they didn’t have to write unit tests at all. When asked which tasks developers would most like to see automated, findings bugs (73 per cent) and software testing (70 per cent) were the top two responses.

Diffblue chief executive Mathew Lodge said: “Asking development teams to deliver world-class software without providing the right support is asking for them to fail and become disengaged.

"When robotic tasks can be assigned to machines, they should be - not only to retain a more satisfied and effective workforce in a time when top talent can be hard to find, but also to improve the quality of the code they create.”

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