By Adam Kolawa, Co-Founder of Parasoft
The practice of following a set of coding standards assures consistency and commonality in the code developed. More importantly, it ensures that best practices in code construction are applied so that your software conforms to the structure necessary to perform optimally, reliably, and securely. It ensures code is free of construction errors; that the code can be easily maintained and integrated; that it is "cleaned" of security vulnerabilities; and is designed for optimal performance. The application of a coding standards practice is key to achieving automated software error prevention and is critical to managing software development projects to success.
Software development organizations trying to implement coding standards without availing themselves of automated tools or the expertise in implementation and deployment most often fail. Failures stem from having poorly defined and enforced practices; poorly defined standards; inflexible and poorly automated tools; poor integration with the development process and development tools; inconsistent use and application of the standards; a poorly executed deployment strategy that overwhelms already beleaguered development teams; and so on. The value and benefits of implementing an automated coding standards analysis practice will be many, but only if implemented correctly.
An automated coding standards practice will be driven by a software tool that provides a comprehensive set of coding standards, but which has the flexibility to configure, prioritize, and apply those standards to adapt to an organization's processes and goals. Additionally, the tool should allow standards to be easily modified or added. However, an effective application of a coding standards practice requires more than just the software tool. It requires that the practice be well defined and integrated into your software development lifecycle so that it is used consistently and regularly. It is also critical that the practice be automated. Automation ensures regular execution and consistent results.
Coding standards should be "alive" to be effective, meaning they should be regularly practiced and metrics of the results of their application should be regularly evaluated and used as a guide to the quality of code and effectiveness of the team. It is also critical to have the means to monitor and measure its use to ensure consistent practice and to be able to use the data generated to zero in on problems in both the code and coding behavior. Monitoring the practice and its results is necessary to control your software project, ensure its success, and improve the effectiveness of your team.
With a well-defined and implemented automated coding standards practice and the means to apply and monitor its consistent use across your team, you will significantly improve the consistency and quality of your code, reduce the risk of project failure, and better control the predictability of release cycles and time-to-market demands.