Let’s face it: Writing complex code can be daunting and doing so alone can make the process even more cumbersome. Although working solo can feel productive, programmers and developers have found the agile practice of pair programming a fast and effective process for simultaneously writing and reviewing projects, resulting in more sustainable code.
No matter what language you’re using, pair programming can move a project forward, increase productivity and boost team morale. Here are a few of the positive impacts this process can have on your team.
Build more resilient code
First, what is pair programming? There are multiple methods, which can accommodate different personalities, projects and time restraints. In traditional pair programming, pairs are made of three variations: expert-expert, expert-novice, and novice-novice. The process involves two teammates who frequently alternate between the role of driver (the person writing the code) and navigator (, the person checking the code for errors). No matter the combination, participants are likely to benefit from collaborating, offering differing perspectives and asking one another questions.
While two individuals working on a single project may seem like a waste of resources, pair programming can prevent multiple iterations and save a company time and money. With multiple eyes on a project’s code, companies can boost the efficiency of the process and increase the quality of the final product. Involving two parties also ensures the project knowledge is shared by at least one other member of the team, which can prevent issues if the original writer is no longer available.
Although each group consists of only two people, pair programming can empower entire teams. By working together, groups can build rapport and trust while eliminating technical mistakes. Collaborating also reduces downtime by allowing both participants to address issues quickly and brainstorm solutions rather than an individual spending extensive time resolving an issue alone. The communication and collaboration are likely to continue as individuals pair with other members of the team.
Remote pair programming can bring together teams working in different locations and even different time zones. Although the pair may not experience the facetime that comes with traditional pair programming, they still enhance the other’s work by engaging in the project and problem-solving together. A strong internet connection and tools made specifically for remote pair programming increase the likelihood that the project is successful—and an enjoyable experience for both developers.
(Shared) knowledge is power
Pair programming allows developers with any level of expertise to share brainpower and help their partner move the project forward. Alternating viewpoints can prove valuable when an expert changes their routine to account for a novice, while the novice asks questions that verify the reliability of the code.
Is your team growing? Pair programming can be an efficient training process for new employees regardless of their experience level. Partnering junior- and senior-level developers can reduce onboarding time and teach new employees the team’s preferred architecture and framework and prevent possible confusion.
Increase project engagement
Working alone can sometimes lead to longer project times through no fault of the individual. However, adding another person to the workstation can boost the quality of time on each set of code. If one encounters a confusing section, they can simply ask for their partner’s input rather than using additional time to research solutions. In the role of navigator, one is likely to ask questions and catch mistakes in real time, allowing the driver to quickly resolve errors without delaying the project
Pair programming encourages both participants to be more engaged throughout the project. Because they are sharing a computer, pairs are less likely to spend time on distractions like emails, calls and chat messages. Swapping roles on a set schedule helps each person remain alert to the code being written, which can help reduce errors. Many pairs incorporate the pomodoro technique to ensure both people remain focused and productive.
Grow individual skill sets
Just as it helps onboard new team members, pair programming can help individuals broaden their own skills. For example, one may be an expert in one programming language but struggle to understand a newer language. Pairing with a team member with more experience can decrease the time needed to learn a new language or software.
Getting started with pair programming
Pair programming can be a useful tactic for training newcomers, nurturing teamwork and building exceptional projects. The process can also reduce bugs and prevent knowledge silos, which reduces the future upkeep of code and gives your team more time to tackle new projects.
Amos King is the founder and CEO of Binary Noggin. A leading expert in emerging software languages, Amos is also a frequent speaker at conferences like ElixirConf and Lonestar Elixir and co-host of the popular Elixir Outlaws and This Agile Life podcasts.
Founded in 2007, Binary Noggin is a team of software engineers and architects who serve as a trusted extension of your team, helping your company succeed through collaboration. We forge customizable solutions using Agile methodologies and our mastery of Elixir, Ruby and other open source technologies. Share your ideas with us on Facebook and Twitter.