Why You Should Definitely Be Adding Code Review to Your Agile Processes

If you’ve ever had experience with Agile software development methodologies, you’re probably aware that code review is a must.

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran


It’s important to eliminate bugs as soon as possible, and sometimes it can be difficult to catch them without a fresh set of eyes.

But what are the best ways to implement code review processes on an Agile team, and what additional benefits can your organization get from defining a clear review system?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the purpose and mechanics of Agile code review, its benefits, and some best practices to set your team up for success.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you.

What is the purpose of Agile code review?

The main purpose of Agile code review is to check for any bugs and improve the overall quality of the code.

While some might argue that adding a code review process takes too long, we think it actually saves a significant amount of time in the long run by preventing repeat issues and improving processes. Plus, presenting high-quality deliverables should always be a priority.

What is code review in Agile software development? 

In an Agile software development team, code review is the process a team goes through to check that a piece of code is error-free and meets all the requirements outlined in the task acceptance criteria.

At NaNLABS, we specialize in helping clients implement a solid code review process. For example, one client of ours didn’t have a standard way to create pull requests. Initially, there was only one developer working on the codebase, so there was no need. 

However, when we brought a pod of 3 additional developers, we had to put processes and best practices in place to ensure success, such as a pull request template and a code review checklist.

If code review processes aren’t in place, every developer will do as they want, making the team less efficient and taking more time to launch features and fixes on the product. 

What are the benefits of code reviews?

In addition to fixing bugs, eliminating readability issues, and improving quality, code reviews have several other benefits. They include:

  • Setting foundations for continuous improvement

  • Preventing the final product from being delivered with unstable code

  • Sharing knowledge and mentoring within the team

  • Producing a more cohesive and more maintainable codebase

  • Enhancing security  

A huge benefit of code review within the Agile lifecycle is the flexibility that a team has to distribute work and iterate as needed. As a result, teams are better able to swarm for reviews and utilize test-driven development methods. 

Plus, it prevents the bottlenecks that result from one or two team members being responsible for all reviews and opens the door for more Agile continuous improvement

Code review vs peer review: How are they different?

How are code review and peer code review different? Surprise—they’re not.

Code review and peer review are interchangeable terms, and they both describe the process of checking new code for errors. It’s up to your team to choose which term you prefer. Just make sure that everyone is on the same page so there’s no confusion.

How code review happens in Agile teams

We ALWAYS include code review in our projects at NaNLABS—no exceptions. It’s important to set review guidelines at your organization and make sure everyone is on board. Sometimes our clients don’t have a clear code review process in place, so we help them to define one for consistency within Agile technical practices.

The best Agile code review checklist for Agile development teams

At NaNLABS, we live and breathe Agile, and we always follow a checklist when reviewing code and refactoring in Agile. Here’s our “secret sauce” checklist for successful code review:

  • Git practices have been applied (commit messages, squashed commits, etc). These are defined inside each team.

  • Detect code bad smells, and propose improvements to make code easier to maintain.

  • Ensure codebase reutilization.

  • Detects dead or commented code. Avoid warnings.

  • Make sure PR has test coverage.

  • Smoke test the main flow of the proposed changes using a preview link.

  • Create a comment for each recommendation or change request on the first line that appears.

  • If a change request appears many times, repeat the comment in all places regardless of whether the comment is duplicated.

Best practices for effective code review in Agile teams

While each team’s code review process may vary, there are some general best practices that can help set you up for success. Some of these best practices include:

  • Create a code review checklist

  • Use code review metrics

  • Give feedback that can easily be explained and justified to the programmers

  • Determine how much code should be reviewed at a time

Let’s break each of them down in more detail.

Create a code review checklist

The details of a code review checklist varies from project to project, so we adapt it to each specific context and team.  Feel free to use the one we provided, or tailor it to fit your organization’s processes and needs. Regardless, a clear checklist is a must-have for successful code review.

Use code review metrics

Tracking the right metrics will help you gauge the effect of reviews on the code, predict the time impact of code reviews, and track the technical debt identified by the review. Useful code review metrics include:

  • Inspection rate. How long it takes to review a specific amount of code.

  • Defect rate. How often a reviewer identifies a defect or issue with the code.

  • Defect density. The number of defects the reviewer identifies in a specific amount of code.

Give feedback that can easily be explained and justified to the programmer

Any feedback given to the programmer or developer who wrote a section of code should be easy to justify and explain. If the developer doesn’t know the reasoning behind feedback, how will they know how to avoid similar mistakes in the future?

“Ask the reviewer for clarity in the messages, specifying on which lines the corrections need to happen, and what could be the correction,” said Adan Mauri Ungaro, Technical Leader at NaNLABS. “Also, be open to opinions and different approaches and interpretations.”

Determine how much code should be reviewed at a time

It’s important to define how many lines of code should be reviewed at once. If your team attempts to review a giant block of code in one sitting, feedback will likely be less detailed and accurate than if reviews are broken up into smaller chunks.

Implementing code review processes in your organization

If your organization doesn’t already have a code review process in place, you can be the one to get the ball rolling. Approach your manager or team leader and discuss how your team can benefit from implementing a better code review process or even using a code review tool.

Remind them of how much more efficient your team can be and how the quality of your products will improve. Or, if you need help implementing a solid code review process, we’re here to help!

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you.

Frequently asked questions about code review in Agile

What is code review?

Code review is the process of checking code for any bugs and ensuring that it meets all project requirements.

What are the types of code review?

The types of code review are over the shoulder (simply peek at your coworker’s screen),

scheduled (set aside dedicated time for review sessions), pair programming (when there’s a more complicated task, tackle it together), or Random (setting aside review time at no particular cadence).

How does code review help in Agile?

Code review has many benefits, including fixing bugs, improving code base quality, setting foundations for continuous improvement, preventing the final product from being delivered with unstable code, sharing knowledge within the team, and enhancing security. Agile teams can capitalize on their flexible structure to swarm on reviews and keep projects moving. 

What are the 7 steps to review code? 

Here are 7 concrete steps to follow that can help you review code: 

  1. Set goals

  2. Perform your first review

  3. Use a ticketing system

  4. Run tests

  5. Test proposed changes

  6. Perform a detailed review

  7. Submit your evaluation

How do you code review in Scrum?

Scrum code review isn’t necessarily that different from code review using another Agile methodology. We have a few tips, though: Outline coding standards guidelines at the beginning to avoid mistakes and establish cosmetic parameters, switch up the type of code review you’re using, and make sure to discuss how things are going at retrospectives and standups.

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