by Diane Kenyon, VP of Engineering and Operations
Benjamin Franklin famously stated that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the world of quality software, that analogy may be underestimated. Errors in software development discovered at the release stage are greatly more expensive and difficult to repair than when discovered during the testing and development stages.
While there are no guarantees of perfect success, establishing best practices for development and properly educating your team of those guidelines will significantly reduce the likelihood of errors and diminish their impact. The key lies in making sure everyone knows the rules to the point of being able to quote them, and that each person understands his/her responsibilities within the project. Culture, compliance needs, expectations and risks all go into establishing a framework for success.
Following this structured process for defining and hardening your best practices improves consistent adoption across all team members:
Step 1 — Evaluate your processes and best practices
Work with your team to determine what’s working and what’s not working. Assess the risks and tradeoffs for all steps of the process. Ensure processes are clear and concise for each role. Then update and document your best practices guide.
Step 2 — Define the baseline of best practices for each team
Step 1 generally defines the “ideal process” followed under routine circumstances. Step 2 trims the “ideal process” to those steps that are absolutely required 100% of the time.
- Define the checks and balances that belong with this set of processes — they become the baseline that may be utilized with appropriate escalation and communication.
- Document realistic examples of when skipping otherwise routine best practices may be allowed.
Step 3 — Educate the teams on the output of steps 1 and 2
This should be an interactive session to ensure that all questions and concerns are addressed. It is critical that each team member comes away from this step with a complete understanding of your best practices guide, the baseline and the procedures.
Step 4 — Audit what practices are being followed
Establish a timeline to audit processes under routine circumstances. Perform audits on the timeline pulling a sampling of tasks/projects to evaluate. Also, audit against the baseline best practices when exceptions arise. Report your findings and repeat. Continuing to assess and re-educate on best practices will ensure you are achieving the best results.
Best Practices are often talked about, but does your team really understand what they are? Following these 4 steps to adopt and educate help ensure that management, development and QA are all on the same page. Team members can be held accountable to follow them, and perhaps more importantly, will feel more empowered to hold each other and themselves more accountable to the process.