What Is a Pull Request & Why Is It Important for Code Review?

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Managing a collaborative development project on a large scale can be challenging. There might be multiple people making modifications to different portions of the code all at the same time. Although the members of your dev team can communicate face-to-face or via email, there’s always the risk of something going wrong.

The human mind is prone to forgetting things. Email conversations can be complicated to follow. Everything becomes more complicated when working on an open-source project with individuals that might not have met before. That’s where pull requests come into play.

This article will discuss the pull request meaning, how it fits into the development process, and why it is important for code review. Let’s dive right in.

Table of Contents

What Is a Pull Request?

Software developers use pull requests, otherwise known as PR, to initiate the process of integrating new code changes into the main project repository. Pull requests are sent through git systems, like GitLab, GitHub, and BitBucket, to notify the rest of your team that a branch or fork is ready to be reviewed.

Instead of being merely a notification, the pull request button serves as an entirely separate platform for discussing the new feature. Updates can be kept isolated from the main project while also increasing internal and possibly external collaboration and streamlining debugging. 

If the changes have any issues, your team can provide input through the PR and push follow-up commits to modify the feature. Each one of these activities is logged immediately within the pull request.

How Pull Requests Fit In the Development Process

Using a PR in GitHub, developers can add more features or fix bugs without altering the project’s source code or affecting the user experience. By doing so, they can test and develop code changes at a local machine without fear of disrupting the entire program. 

Here’s how git pull requests fit into the development process:

  • Fork the main git repository and generate a topic branch
  • Make any necessary changes on a local level
  • Changes made on a local machine will be pushed to the forked repository
  • Open a pull request
  • Conduct the code review
  • Integrate with the base branch

Why Are Pull Requests Important for Code Review?

Pull requests are built on the principles of code review and team collaboration. Developers can request reviews from their colleagues and track the build status of their work via PRs.

Additionally, using pull requests in the code review process enables you as the leader to track your team’s review process as a whole. Our data science team at LinearB studied nearly 2,000 dev teams and discovered that the biggest factor contributing to long cycle time is the code review process, specifically around pull request pickup time, pull request review time and pull request size.

Check out this presentation from our CEO Ori Keren: 

You can’t improve what you don’t measure, which is why we aggregate your issues, Git, and release data into one platform. But we believe that metrics alone don’t improve dev teams. 

It’s great to know what your cycle time is and to even break that down to see coding time, PR pickup time, PR review time, and deploy time. But you then have to know if your average times are good or bad. 

We compiled the data from our study into an engineering benchmarks chart, identifying parameters for dev teams that are elite, strong, fair, or need focus.

Engineering Benchmarks Chart
Want to learn more about being an elite engineering team? Check out this blog detailing our engineering benchmarks study and methodology.

Now you can use your pull request data to see where you stand against industry standards and which areas need focus to help your team deliver on promises and ship features faster.

We’ve also taken it a step further and automated part of the work for you with our WorkerB bot. All you have to do is establish goals for improvement with your team, set them up in LinearB, and WorkerB will keep your team on track with warnings and reminders when they need to course correct.

Nobody wants to review your huge pull request. Book a demo of WorkerB PR size alerts.
Improve your code quality and developer workflow with smaller pull requests. Book a demo of LinearB today.

Being an engineering leader has never been easier.

The Bottomline

It can be difficult to manage a collaborative development effort among a large team, especially if they’re remote. One of the things that can make things easier and more efficient is PRs. They enable you to standardize and track your code review process.

And if you want to learn more about why we built LinearB, check out the links below.

📚 ️Further Reading

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