Software Refactoring: Benefits Outweigh the Challenges

By CIOReview | Thursday, September 8, 2016
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Though Refactoring has been around different development environments for a specific time, one has seen very little variation when it comes to human interfaces. These have caused programmers to refactor slowly in a bid to curtail errors. To expect Refactoring to solve all the problems associated to the software is absurd. However, it can definitely prove to be a valuable tool for a CIO in keeping things tight on various fronts. We take a look at some of the benefits of software refactoring below:

Helps in improving software design: Most organizations make changes to the code in order to realize short-term goals without really caring for the design of the code. This often leads to the code losing its structure which makes it harder to see the design by reading the code. Refactoring is helpful in such situations as it removes the bits that aren’t in the right place and makes sure that the code retains its shape.

Enables to understand the software easily: Refactoring comes to the rescue of a lazy programmer. It helps the program become more understandable by making the code more readable. Refactoring helps in closing the gap between what the user wants the computer to do and what he tells it to do.

Helps in locating bugs: The understanding of codes ultimately leads to the discovery of bugs. Refactoring helps in that regard as well by enabling programmers understand what the code does. When they put the new understanding into the code, the spotting of bugs becomes evident.

Helps in faster programming: All the above benefits leads to faster programming. The biggest asset of refactoring is that it helps users maintain speed in software development without worrying about the design, readability, and bugs of the code.

Problems associated with Refactoring

Refactoring is not free of problems. Here we discuss a couple of the significant challenges that one has to face with regard to Refactoring:

Databases: With most organizations preferring to keep their business applications tightly coupled to the database schema that supports them, it emerges as one of the problem areas for refactoring. This acts as a hindrance in the process of changing databases and data migration, which is a long and panic-stricken task.

Changing Interfaces: Changing Interfaces are another cause of worry for refactoring. The problem associated with it is particularly seen when a published interface is changed while refactoring, as it becomes mandatory to retain both the old and new interfaces until users have a chance to react to it. Though this is a simple method, it is very troublesome as it complicates the interfaces apart from making it hard to use.

Efforts that can be taken to keep Refactoring problems at bay

Investing in proper tools: Lack of proper tools is the most common cause of refactoring problems. Starting from renaming variables and methods, changing method signatures as well as moving things around, refactoring is in need of the correct tools at all times. Not having them at its disposal can easily lead to disasters.

Avoid using the results of a database query: Resisting the urge of using the results of a database query is another way of keeping refactoring problems at bay. This saves an organization from having to deal with an application crash caused due to a missing field or bad data type. On the contrary, organizations can resort to the repository pattern which is also helpful in dealing with the problem of lack of unit tests.

Lack of unit tests: Refactoring without a unit test safety net is asking for trouble. One can deal with such problems by creating a set of unit tests for the existing code, which enables the pre-existing defects to be detected along with the new ones that might emerge.

Avoid refactoring code having many external interfaces: This is an essential point to be remembered, especially in the case of string parameters. With these errors remaining undetected until a full QA cycle or in production, the best way to solve this is to capture all data transmitted between the two systems within a specific time. The captured data can be then used in unit tests in making sure that refactoring can handle live traffic correctly.