The N4S project is still going strong and produces new results almost weekly. This week started with the publication of an article Refactoring — a Shot in the Dark in the newest November/December 2015 issue of IEEE Software. This article was a result of close collaboration between researchers from TUT Pervasive (Marko Leppänen, Samuel Lahtinen and Outi Sievi-Korte) and University of Helsinki Department of Computer Science (Simo Mäkinen, Antti-Pekka Tuovinen and Professor Tomi Männistö). Of course, in the spirit of N4S, the researchers were not alone, but they interviewed twelve industry professionals in various companies.
Refactoring is a quite hot topic in the research, as one can deduct from the fact that this IEEE Software issue was a special number that focused to this subject. Refactoring is a part of the Agile software development, as it is seen as the way to improve the software design by making changes that don’t affect the functionality of the code.
In the article, the interviews are analysed to get a grasp how refactoring is done in the real world. The most notable findings were that although the professionals value the practice highly, they have really hard times in explaining its benefits to the management and, most importantly, to customers. This leads to situation where no time is allocated to improving the code design, which in turn causes problems when time passes. There is also a risk, albeit a small one, lurking in the refactoring activity. Not all refactoring attempts end well, and the developers have only spent some of their valuable time in vain. These effects are amplified by the fact that no-one seemed to have good metrics in proving the need for refactoring and the quality of the end result.