Everyone wants to be more efficient at their job. Software developers are no different. 

Leveraging artificial intelligence, GitHub Copilot presents a novel code assistance tool designed to augment the workflow of development teams. By offering contextual suggestions and drawing upon a vast code repository, GitHub Copilot can expedite the development process while enhancing code quality and consistency.

For developers and organizations considering using GitHub Copilot or just starting their Copilot journey, here are some key benefits and considerations for how Copilot can help enhance your code.

Benefits of GitHub Copilot

Chatting with your Copilot: GitHub Copilot Chat allows you to have a conversation-like interaction about your code. You can interact with GitHub Copilot through a chat window, like chatting with a friend. This makes it easy to ask questions and get answers in a natural way. It’s not just a general chatbot: it focuses on your code and can answer questions about syntax, libraries, debugging, or even explain existing code in your project.

Even better, GitHub Copilot Chat uses the code in your workspace to provide relevant suggestions and explanations. It understands the programming language you’re using and the structure of your project. You can even include other “participants” with specific areas of expertise in these chats. For instance, you can use the `@workspace` participant to get suggestions based on your project’s codebase or the `@vscode` participant to get help with Visual Studio Code functionalities.

GitHub Copilot Chat can also be used to generate Unit Tests, enhance your code by suggesting improvements in areas like efficiency or readability, and provide help with difficult or unfamiliar programming concepts.

GitHub Copilot Chat aims to streamline your coding workflow by providing assistance and information directly within your IDE, reducing the need to search documentation or forums for answers.

Faster Coding: GitHub Copilot can fill in repetitive parts of the code you already know, like loops or common functions. This lets your team focus on the trickier bits and get more done in less time. Think about it like this: if you don’t spend time writing those same loops and common functions over and over every time they are needed, you can focus on the unique parts of your code that make your program special. This can lead to a big boost in productivity for your team.

Intelligent Code Completion: GitHub Copilot further enhances your code as an intelligent code completion tool. It analyzes your existing code and suggests relevant snippets or functions as you type. This streamlines repetitive tasks like writing common loops or boilerplate code, freeing your team to focus on the unique aspects of your project. Additionally, if a team member encounters an unfamiliar coding concept, GitHub Copilot can offer suggestions based on similar code it’s seen before, acting as a built-in reference guide. This fosters a knowledge-sharing environment within the team and empowers developers to tackle new challenges with greater confidence.

More Consistent Quality Code: The suggestions provided by GitHub Copilot can lead to improvements in code quality. By recommending code structures and functions that align with best practices, GitHub Copilot can help reduce errors and improve code maintainability. Furthermore, GitHub Copilot can nudge your team towards a more consistent coding style. This consistency makes code easier to understand for everyone working on the project, leading to fewer bugs and smoother collaboration. GitHub reports that studies have shown teams using GitHub Copilot to merge code do so 50% faster than teams not using GitHub Copilot. By implementing GitHub Copilot, you get higher velocity through more consistent code quality. Both are excellent results!

Things to Keep in Mind

Copilot has a proven ability to enhance the developer experience and efficiency. But there’s a reason Copilot is called Copilot and not autopilot. Here are some key strategies to help you improve your team’s mastery and use of Copilot.

Check Everything: GitHub Copilot’s suggestions aren’t perfect, and it might sometimes make mistakes. It’s important for your team to review the code and make sure it works as expected. GitHub Copilot can help you understand the code that was suggested and why it was suggested. Because GitHub Copilot’s suggestions are based on real code that other developers have written, it can often point you to helpful documentation or examples that can help you understand the code better.

A Tool, Not A Solution: GitHub Copilot is a tool to solve problems and not the solution to all problems. GitHub Copilot can be used to make a variety of suggestions, from code to comments to unit tests and more, as well as to provide explanations about specific code. Your team should use it to help build common functions, comment code, build unit tests, and provide explanations about existing code as well as code it has just suggested. Your team needs to read and understand the suggestions, so they know if there are hallucinations and can address those. Again, it is GitHub Copilot, not Autopilot, so your team needs to know enough to be able to check what has been suggested.

Therefore, make sure your team does not become too dependent on GitHub Copilot. They should be able to do the reviews noted, to make sure the suggestions are correct and the code explanations are believable. Your team can learn the codebase and learn coding constructs, while also spending most of their time on the more interesting problems that only they can solve. GitHub offers resources and training specifically designed to help developers use GitHub Copilot effectively alongside their problem-solving skills. In this way, you can use GitHub Copilot to boost your team’s skills while still making sure they’re learning and growing.

Cost Considerations: There’s a subscription fee for using GitHub Copilot, so your company will need to decide if the benefits outweigh the cost. Here’s the thing: GitHub has shown that GitHub Copilot can lead to faster development cycles, which means your company can get products to market quicker. Studies by GitHub have shown that teams using GitHub Copilot complete tasks approximately 55% faster, yielding a more efficient development process. This can give you a big advantage over your competitors. So, while there is a cost, there can also be a big return on investment.

More and more organizations are seeing GitHub Copilot as a valuable asset for development teams. Its ability to streamline development cycles, cultivate a knowledge-sharing environment, and promote code maintainability, positions it as a compelling solution. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that GitHub Copilot serves as a collaborative tool, functioning most effectively when employed alongside a team’s core programming competencies.

By adopting a strategic approach that capitalizes on GitHub Copilot’s strengths while fostering the continued development of the team’s technical prowess, organizations can leverage this innovative technology to achieve a transformative impact on their software development endeavors. 

How Coveros Can Help

Coveros is a premier services partner with GitHub, providing both training opportunities and implementation support. Struggling to increase the adoption of Copilot or other critical GitHub tools? Ready to enhance the use of GitHub amongst your testers and developers? Our experts can help you build a strategy of adoption that works.

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