Review load

What is review load?

Review load is a metric used in software engineering to measure the average number of open pull requests (PRs) that are assigned to each team member at any given time. To calculate review load, you sum up all the open pull requests and then divide that number by the total number of team members responsible for reviewing these PRs. This calculation gives you an insight into the workload distributed among team members in terms of code review responsibilities.

Why is review load important?

Balanced workload. Review load helps ensure a balanced distribution of code review tasks among team members. An optimal review load can prevent any single team member from becoming a bottleneck due to an excessive number of assigned reviews, which can lead to quicker and more efficient code integration processes.

Team efficiency. Maintaining an appropriate review load is crucial for sustaining team efficiency. High review loads can lead to rushed reviews, increased errors, or burnout, whereas too low a review load might indicate underutilization of team resources. By monitoring and managing review loads, teams can optimize their review processes and maintain high standards of code quality.

Predictability in releases. Review load metrics provide insights into the team’s capacity and throughput, which are vital for planning and predictability in software releases. Understanding the average review load allows project managers to estimate more accurately how quickly new features can be reviewed and integrated into the main branch, ultimately affecting the release schedule and time to market.

What are the limitations of review load?

Does not measure quality. Review load quantifies the number of reviews per developer but does not account for the quality of those reviews. A low review load does not necessarily mean that the reviews conducted are thorough, which might lead to code quality issues down the line.

Varies with team dynamics. The utility of the review load metric can vary significantly depending on team size and the complexity of the tasks. In smaller teams or projects where pull requests are infrequent but large, the review load might appear balanced while still being overwhelming.

Lacks context of review complexity. Review load treats all pull requests as equal, regardless of their complexity or the effort required to review them. This can misrepresent the actual workload on team members, as some pull requests might require significantly more time and effort to review than others.

Metrics related to review load

Review time. Review time is closely related to review load as it measures the amount of time taken to review a pull request. High review loads can lead to increased review times, as developers may rush through reviews or queue them up, slowing down the overall process. Efficient management of review load can help in reducing the review time, thereby speeding up the development cycle.

Code quality. Code quality metrics such as defect density or code coverage can be indirectly affected by review load. If the review load is too high, rushed reviews might not catch defects, affecting the overall quality of the code. Conversely, a manageable review load can contribute to more thorough and effective code reviews, enhancing code quality.

Work in progress. Work in progress (WIP) is another metric that is related to review load. High amounts of WIP can indicate that there are too many tasks (including code reviews) being handled at once, which can be a symptom of high review loads. Managing review load effectively helps in controlling the WIP levels within a team, ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently before new ones are started.

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