Illustration of a development workflow.
June 30, 2020

3 Tips to Optimize Your Development Workflow

Coding Best Practices
Version Control

Development workflows help developers create and commit changes to a shared codebase. But a development workflow isn’t just there for process sake. It can make a huge difference to the flow efficiency of your team and quality of your product.

Your development workflow should align team members, keep them engaged, and drive a balance between speed and quality of code changes.

Often development workflows are not communicated effectively. They are just something team members “know.” It makes it difficult to onboard new developers. Workflows are documented on white boards in a distant conference room, buried in wiki pages, or kept in a process description which is long forgotten.

Developers don’t reference back to these documents because it takes too much time. Not following the development workflow can cause challenges as multiple developers make and commit changes.

So how can you manage your development workflow to ensure it is actually followed by your teams and keeps them moving?

3 Tips to Optimize Your Development Workflow

Let’s take a look at three tips to help optimize your development workflow:

Go Agile and Make Your Process More Visible

Your development workflow is not static. It needs to be continuously adapted to how your team works and your products evolve. Leading development teams use an Agile project methodology to deliver products where change is constant.

Agile gives teams a flexible approach to meet goals when there is a lot of uncertainty. And the more complex a project is, the more uncertainty you’ll encounter.

To optimize your development workflow to adapt quickly you need to:

  • Focus on code quality (more than documentation).
  • Strive for continuous improvement.

Make sure your development workflow is transparent, accessible, and helps reduce the need for documentation. For small teams, you may start tracking development workflow using a physical whiteboard or post-its. However, for distributed or large teams, this is not a feasible option. Digital options must be used to keep everyone on the same page. Using Agile backlog or online Kanban tools can keep everyone on the same page.

To strive for continuous improvement, you'll want to include retrospectives as part of your development workflow. These meetings should be held on a regular basis as a way to evaluate:

  • What was the team able to accomplish?
  • What obstacles did the team encounter?
  • How can things be improved?

Use these meetings to review your process and figure out where teams get stuck. Then you can update your workflow to address these issues. By using digital tools and constantly reviewing your process, you can quickly change your development workflow to meet the needs of your team and project.

7 Principles For Agile at Scale >>

Enforce Peer Code Reviews

When focusing on code quality, you’ll want to implement a code review process as part of your development workflow. This allows teams to more easily read, comment, and engage in conversation about code.

When it comes to your development workflow, you want to ensure code is reviewed by more than one person. This keeps your team engaged and your codebase stable. Code reviews help teams identify issues early, share knowledge, and ensure that coding standards are maintained.

Depending on your branching strategy, code reviews can happen at different points in your development workflow. Let’s review an example:

Your team has three branches — development, a mainline, and a release. Your development branch needs to be fast moving. Teams want to add in new features quickly, with issues fixed as they occur. To reflect this pace, your development workflow should be configured to allow changes to be committed and reviewed/tested later. This ensures that changes do not get hung up in review.

For other branches, like a mainline or release branch, you need code to be more stable. Changes submitted to these branches should be reviewed/tested before committed.

If you try to communicate this process via wikis and confluence pages this can be ineffective for teams. But you can streamline your code review process by managing your development workflow in your code review tool.

Continuously Integrate & Deploy Code

Another way to streamline your development workflow is to automating Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD).

By integrating code early and often, technical risks are radically reduced, and issues are found as soon as possible. Changes are made available to other developers, ensuring they are always working on the most up-to-date version.

For example, you can automate the execution of tests so that the feedback from different test suits is captured at the right moment and as quickly as possible. To make this happen, developers need to merge early and often. That way when tests are run, you can ensure that the build includes all of the most recent changes.

With a lot of systems, you do not have visibility into what everyone is working on. To optimize your development workflow, and streamline CI/CD, you need a tool that gives you visibility into how code flows.

Optimize Your Development Workflow With the Right Tools

Implementing Agile practices will help you identify and resolve bottlenecks in your workflow. Code reviews will gate changes and create a more stable codebase. And CI/CD will help you deliver feedback faster.

Making each of these processes part of your development workflow increases velocity. It is important to make sure that your tools can support these efforts.

How to Automate Your Development Workflow

Automating your development workflow removes some the guess work for developers. It also frees up their time to work on more valuable tasks. Teams no longer need to remember what each branch needs. Tests can be configured automatically so code does not get stuck in review.

With Helix Core and Helix Swarm — version control + code review from Perforce — you can automate your development workflow. Because of the numerous plugins and integrations available, developers can use their preferred IDE and it integrates right into your CI/CD solutions.

Use Perforce Streams to Automate Branching

One of the biggest issues when it comes to any development workflows is guiding teams through branching and merging. As projects grow, this can become increasingly difficult to manage. Other version control systems don’t provide insight into how code evolves, or what people are working on. Team members need to check in constantly to make sure everyone is on the same page.

With Perforce Streams — the branching mechanism for Helix Core — you can automate this process. Streams makes implementing a development workflow easy. This is because Streams’ structure is built-in to support complex branching for development and releases (no matter your strategy or workflow).

Learn more about Streams >>

Use Helix Swarm to Automate Code Review Workflows

Helix Swarm is the free code review tool used with Helix Core. Because of the tight integration with version control, as code is committed, a review can be initiated, and team members notified. This ensures that code does not get merged without a review.

With Swarm, you can tailor development workflows to match your branching strategy. Implementing workflow rules for branches and teams streamlines the review process. For example, reviews can automatically be approved and committed when you reach a certain number of upvotes and tests pass. This streamlines your CI/CD process, increasing your team's velocity.

Using Helix Core + Helix Swarm, you can automate more and guide developers through their workflow. Plus, you can try it free.

Optimize Your Development Workflow