Engineers, Don’t Fear Breaking Changes
Engineers, Don’t Fear Breaking Changes
Something is Broken
You’re ready to sign off for the day, confident that your freshly-written pull request has checked all the boxes for clean code that functions as intended and works in harmony with the larger application. You’re just about to close the window when a humble ‘(1)’ appears on your notifications tab.
You tentatively open the message and your stomach suddenly drops.
Something. Is. Broken.
Engineers know this scenario all too well. And often, the repercussions come with a deep amount of guilt and unease as you have to call colleagues in to help with fixes. But rather than focus on the frustration, take off the ‘dunce’ cap your team will surely gift you for unintentionally breaking something, and start leveling up your gap in knowledge that could have alerted you to this potential break in the first place. And no, it’s not a skills gap – it’s a lack of visibility within software systems, and it plagues developers like you everyday.
For too long, building software happens somewhat in the dark. Developers don’t have full visibility of their application structures, or a very clear understanding of code connections within and between their applications, databases and APIs. It beggars belief that flying blind like this is considered normal for how software is built, expanded, and maintained.
But as technology continues to evolve, so does our approach to its problems. Software engineers can now begin to remove their blindfolds, surface what-if scenarios with accurate information, and stop the fear of breaking changes. Here’s how.
Riding a Bicycle Blindfolded While it’s on Fire
For the majority of software development engineers, fear, uncertainty, and doubt are baked into the build. Even the most seasoned senior engineers experience creeping doubts before a deployment: “What if something happens and I can’t correct it quickly? What if my small change blows everything up? What if I’m responsible for a total failure?” No matter how irrational the thoughts, they arise and take their toll.
Engineers operate under more pressure than most people realize, and it’s rarely openly discussed. One survey found that 15% of developers have an anxiety disorder, while another revealed that over 82% had experienced burnout. When almost every aspect of our lives relies on software, and over 20 million engineers exist to make this software function smoothly, even 15% becomes a big number.
The mental toll on software development engineers can’t be an after-thought. Not only do companies have an ethical obligation to support their teams, but there are also economic benefits to doing so. Developers that operate in a calm environment have greater confidence and are ultimately more productive. Imagine what adding full visibility of their software systems could do! Perpetuating the culture of fear by maintaining the status quo serves nobody. It’s time to support software engineers where it will matter most: by supplying better information so they work fearlessly.
Unpacking the Status Quo
The old way
After staring at a screen similar to the one above, engineers would then have to submit code, test in their own local environment, and run unit tests to ensure that the changes didn’t have knock-on effects. The engineer could use an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to see the impact on other functions, methods, and classes touched by the new code, but they know that the IDE won’t identify everything. IDEs can reveal what a single line of code may touch in a single project, but not how a change in that particular project then impacts the larger application.
IDEs have notable shortcomings when used in multi-project environments. If the engineer has various applications working together and integrates databases, the IDE will only provide a very limited snapshot of interconnections.
In this common scenario, the chances of a breaking change is: High.
Afterward, the engineer would receive a blame request, with team members highlighting the problem code and the creator of that code. It’s the equivalent of having a literal finger of accusation pointed at you, and it causes very real distress among talented engineers.
On top of that stress, engineers have to deal with notoriously tight deadlines. Businesses want to keep their competitive edge and therefore need to constantly deliver value to both end-users and business stakeholders. This has historically meant that software development engineers must meet high, often unrealistic, expectations to ship new features fast while also maintaining the existing systems. Without full visibility or knowledge of those systems, this becomes a daunting job, day in and day out.
Changing the Status Quo with Real-Time Software Intelligence
The new way
With CodeLogic, teams can now immediately see all the connections and dependencies within their application structures, from API to method to database, in real-time. They can get a 40,000 foot view of their cross-application environment to see interdependencies between apps and databases, and they can drill down to see how their code connects at the data-level. This insight allows software development engineers to easily predict what might be affected before code is committed. And, because CodeLogic integrates with IDEs, engineers can access references across their entire application ecosystem, not just specific projects – all without breaking their existing workflow.
Teams are more likely to meet deadlines when they have full information about their systems, because they can accurately scope the work ahead and allocate resources and time accordingly. With the time that they save, they can focus on feature needs and develop new functionality as opposed to putting out constant fires.
Plus, real-time insight of how software systems fit together naturally enhances cross-team collaboration, empowering engineers and development teams to work together more easily and with greater transparency—and the more they work from the same page, the better the outcomes for everyone.
Engineers shouldn’t have to work in fear that they will break things and, even worse, be reprimanded for it. For too long, the humans that we rely on to make the world and its software systems work (and keep working) have been slighted by a lack of knowledge that was never easily accessible, if at all. CodeLogic was built to change that. We remove the blindfold, delete the what-ifs, and stop the fear of breaking changes by finally revealing the full picture. We believe it’s not just about time, it’s about sustainability and sanity, too.