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What Are Best Practices and Why Do You Need Them?

I was dumbfounded by the email I’d just read. The disbelief still showing on my face when I got home that day caused my wife to ask what had happened. I told her about the email I’d received from one of my company’s chief auditors. He had actually typed the words, “We’re XYZ organization. We don’t do ‘Best Practice’”.

I began to write so many variations of email replies, but continuously deleted them without sending. Additionally, I was plagued with incredulous thoughts like, “You won’t even consider it?” and “Why in the world would you NOT do best practice?”. How could I change the mind of this auditor, and the attitude of the organization at large? Maybe everyone can use a lesson in what “Best Practice” is and why it is important.

What is a “Best Practice”?

The term “Best Practice” is described as processes that have conclusively been adopted and recommended as being correct or most effective. ITIL, TQM, Lean, CMMI, along with other frameworks or programs, are intended to improve quality or efficiency through a set of defined best practices. However, these efforts often fall flat in organizations where they are attempted. This is because users find that the “improvements” actually are impediments to getting work done under tight timelines and ever-increasing expectations. Users of these processes frequently feel like they’re being force-fed. This is typically due to a lack of understanding of “why”.

So, why do we pursue best practice? Why do we put our teams through the rigor and heartache of using best practices? The answers not only benefit the company but the individual as well.

Why You Need Best Practices

Best practices are like guard-rails. Following them on a journey to go-live helps keep us from crashing off into a ditch and failing. In practice, following best practices will mitigate possible risks to a deployment and keep the train moving on time. In process areas, it streamlines peer reviews for code, and makes code deployments to production environments less problematic. When it comes to managing your teams, best practices enhance support-ability by the current developer and anyone who follows after. Teams and teams of teams are less dependent on tribal code knowledge if everyone follows the best practice “norms”.

Pursuing best practices also genuinely helps our team members. Individuals are empowered to improve not just for one deployment cycle, but a sustained career by learning the better way to code and configure. In the process, developers are becoming more attractive and valuable resources.

With the case for best practices being clear, teams need to consider the risk, reward, and strategy of adopting a development methodology that works for them. This includes many factors which drive the appropriate best practices to adopt and how to effectively use each one. Although it might be difficult to assess, the end result is that we steer clear from using not-best (read worst) practices which could cost more than just money.

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