As a startup that is working with (or considering working with) an offshore software development team, there are a number of challenges you must overcome to make sure you are managing them effectively. Timezones and communication are two commonly cited hurdles, but another major challenge is ensuring the quality of code is up to par.
Ensuring code quality is a multifaceted problem that starts with vetting the developers before even beginning development (if you need help vetting developers or want to check out a list of carefully vetted firms, check ou). After you have vetted the developers, you must define the process you expect them to use while working on development. This is often where the difference lies between the "lowest bidder" and a firm that is more experienced, albeit more expensive: the more quality firm will have these coding best practices already in place.
One of the best ways to enforce some best practices, and therefore code quality, is by using CI/CD tools to define the process of building and deploying code. You may have heard of CI/CD but don't exactly know what it is or how to implement it into your project.
In this post, we'll outline:
1. What is CI/CD (as simply as possible)
2. The benefits of adopting CI/CD tools (especially when it comes to enforcing code quality and mitigating downtime)
3. Common CI/CD tools to implement into your development process
As simple as possible, what is CI/CD?
At the core of it, CI/CD tools automate a lot of the manual steps that developers usually have to follow after pushing their code.
The key word here is automate.
So developers should, in theory, be doing all of these steps manually anyway. CI/CD tools just take these manual steps and automate it all to help save time and reduce the chance of human error.
CI (Continuous Integration) tools automate things like
1. Making sure the code runs in the first place
2. Running pre-defined tests against the code to make sure things that were working before are not broken
3. Making sure the code actually builds and spits out the application that it needs to spit out
CD (Continuous Delivery) tools automate the deployment of the code.
The benefits of adopting CI/CD tools
There are a lot of benefits depending on what kind of CI/CD tools are used, but the primary benefit is saving developer time by automating things like:
1. Running tests to make sure that the code is not breaking anything.
2. Making sure that the code will actually build
3. Deploying to specific servers
If you have a solid CI/CD practice in place, you and your developers should have more peace of mind when it comes to code being pushed. Your code will not be deployed if tests fail or if the code does not build, reducing the chances of bugs/downtime.
If the tests are well written, it should help enforce a baseline level of code quality that developers have to follow. If you are outsourcing software development, utilizing CI/CD tools is a must.
Common CI/CD tools you (and your dev team) can use
Unfortunately to correctly set up CI/CD tools it is recommended that you have a technical background. However, it is still worth knowing the basics of CI/CD and what tools are out there.
There are many CI/CD tools out there that you can integrate into your development process. Here are a few common tools to take a look at if you are thinking abut integrating CI/CD tools into your process.
Although CI/CD tools may look daunting, it is very helpful for startups to have a basic understanding of them to ensure that they are being used in their development process.
You don't need to know how to set them up, but you should at least ensure that they are being used. They will help you reduce bugs/errors, ensure a baseline level of code quality and save development time in the long run. Without CI/CD tooling, developers will have to testing, building and deployment manually anyway.
Good developers will be the ones asking for this to be put in place since it saves them time and headache in the long run. After you implement the use of CI/CD tools in your development pipeline, you'll hopefully begin to see an increase in the code quality.