Why Do We Need Engineering Best Practices?

December 1, 2020 | 4 Minute Read

Tags:Engineering,Best Practices

In part one of this series on best practices, we take a closer look at engineering best practices: why we need them and how they help us deliver value to our customers. 

While we consider best practices essential to our work, unfortunately, they’re often misunderstood. 

These are some common myths about best practices:

Myth #1: Best practices are absolute

Reality: Best practices are not rigid instructions. They’re more like a structure that provides a quick way around common challenges faced by engineers. They’re best taken more as recommendations than rules—as non-definitive practices to be applied with wisdom and flexibility. 

Myth #2: Best practices reduce creativity

Reality: Documented processes do not restrict or reduce any experimental ideas coming from the team. Instead, they help us focus our energies in the right direction and evolve our practices over time. This allows engineers to solve the problem they need to solve quickly, efficiently, and of course, creatively.

Myth #3: Best practices become quickly outdated

Reality: While this can happen, it can be easily circumvented. Regular retrospectives help ensure that the team is constantly learning from mistakes and that a healthy amount of attention is paid towards staying informed and current. This lets the team innovate on existing “best” practices and improve them.

Why follow engineering best practices?

At Axelerant, we pride ourselves on the quality of our deliverables. And for this, we rely heavily on our team members following our established best practices.

Best practices are not a set of rules set in stone but are a way of managing operations over a long time, which has proven to be of value to our projects. 

There are many common problems that we have solved as an organization and as a community. With time and experience, solutions to these problems evolve and get standardized, becoming a concrete set of practices that can be relied upon to deliver the best results in a wide variety of scenarios. Using these learnings to resolve issues help us move quickly and avoid past mistakes. This lets us deliver superior value to our customers in the form of a robust solution with minimum technical debt at a lower cost.  

How do we implement best practices at Axelerant?

At Axelerant, we adhere to specific best practices for each of our service areas. The scope of each of these is well documented and tested in advance, as we believe in evaluating them for benefit versus effort.   

Since all these checks cost highly to the organization, we are mindful of the value we deliver to the client. We use various approaches to enable engineers to write standard clean code in the first place with minimum effort. 

To this end, we utilize:

  • Templates: We maintain a suite of ready templates for reference and quick start. 
  • Peer mentorship: Engineers at Axelerant always have the option to learn from others as part of our peer mentorship program. 
  • A dedicated internal support channel: To allow team members to quickly reach out to others for help with solving problems, we have an #internal-support channel in Slack. Team members can post their queries here and get responses from others within minutes. 
  • Automated quality checks for custom code: These checks are stricter than the current industry standards and are launched with every commit and merge request, encouraging developers to write quality code at the outset. 
  • Mandatory peer review: This helps us identify, discuss and solve problems that cannot be caught by automated tools. 

As far as Drupal engagements are concerned, the Axelerant team follows coding standards that align with the Drupal community standards as Drupal coding standards are version-independent and "always-current." We believe that code needs to be written with a diligent and methodical focus on correctness.

Our team is aware of every new update or introduction in the community. These updates and trends are tested internally to gauge their effectiveness and are then collectively decided upon. 

In the end, it’s about delivering value to our customers

The most important practice followed at Axelerant is discipline. We can furnish a long list of best practices, but sticking to them requires regulation and direction. 

Documenting these practices has helped us maintain our focus while delivering value to our clients. By creating a strategic plan for delivering any project, Axelerant team members are able to produce consistent results.