‘They won’t let me refactor!’

In recent projects, I have found that developers often avoid company politics, even if it is detrimental to the quality of the software they’re working on. I think they should join the political arena.

An example:

  1. A team is put under some pressure, or at least feels like it is.
  2. Code is written that is below standards and the team knows it.
  3. As the team continues to add features, the burden of the suboptimal code written earlier becomes heavier.
  4. The business people wonder why everything is buggy and development is at a low pace.
  5. The team is frustrated and feels like it’s a victim of those clueless business people. “We weren’t given any time do better”, the team says.

Now it would make me popular with the programming crowd if I would argue that the business people should have known better and should have allowed them more time to write code of higher quality. And sure, they should be aware of these things. But often they’re not. or they forget about it.

What I want to say is something else. I think that developers should take responsibility for their code. That means that they should not allow business people to just downplay the importance of refactoring, or to postpone it. The team will just have to make them understand just how important it is. Tools like Sonar can help developers conveying that message to business people. And sure, that means playing your part in company politics, especially when you’re the team’s lead developer. But whether you like it or not, company politics are a fact of life. As a developer, you can either be a sitting duck or get into the game and defend the quality of your code base. You might even have to nag a bit, but in the end when you’ve done your refactoring, you will have done everybody involved a great service. That will be on more step in your company becoming the great software shop you’d love to work in.

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