The Software Development Practices These Engineering Leaders Swear By

by Janey Zitomer
November 15, 2019

When you consider general technological advancement of the last century, pieces of code themselves don’t normally come to mind. But specific engineering output has significantly impacted society and dictates many of our actions today. About a month ago, Slate published an article called “The Lines of Code That Changed Everything.” Examples highlighted? The “like” button, the police beat algorithm and JPEG, to name a few. 

Of course, a field with such wide influence requires production timelines, dedicated methodologies and flexible engineers. In a space where being on time means you’re metaphorically always late, we asked six Colorado engineers about what processes they use to stay ahead.

 

LogRhythm software
logrhytm

Despite the popular saying “all press is good press,” LogRhythm works to help keep their clients out of the headlines by actively protecting them from cybersecurity threats and mitigating risks. Michael Sannes, director of software engineering, told us about their recent transition from Agile to SAFe. 

 

How does your software development team define their best practices? 

In general, our practices reflect those of the industry. For example, we use the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to run the software programs across the organization. We also use test-driven development (TDD) and are building a continuous integration, continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline and incorporate static code analysis for security defect discovery.

We have changed the practices we implement over time. For example, we previously used Agile, then implemented SAFe for the first time, then a more Agile-like practice and now we’re back to SAFe. We, like most organizations, tweak the process a bit to fit our needs and culture.

Sometimes these new methods are so compelling that we adopt them.’’  

 

How does your team balance a need to incorporate best practices into their work with the desire to try and test new methodologies and strategies?

Since we are generally trying to follow best practices from the start, by definition that allows for (and requires) teams to take time to explore emerging technologies and methodologies to determine their value. Sometimes these new methods are so compelling that we adopt them. And if they are especially compelling, they’ll probably find their way into the next iteration of best practices.

 

World Wide Technology office
world wide technology

As the World Wide Technology team focuses on developing software that makes a difference for their clients, they aren’t simply seeing what sticks. Director of Delivery Leadership Heather McLean told us they define best practices using a method based on Agile principles, which allows them to meet goals based on rotating new approaches. 

 

How does your software development team define their best practices? 

We define our best practices with our “10 Delivery Principles,” which are based on the 12 Agile principles. The Delivery Principles provide usable guidance for our delivery teams while still providing autonomy around how those goals are satisfied. They reflect our company’s culture and focus on providing customer value through teamwork, communication and continuous improvement. We also embrace change and understand the need to revisit and adjust as needed.

Our teams are encouraged to try new approaches and continuously improve.’’ 

How does your team balance a need to incorporate best practices into their work with the desire to try and test new methodologies and strategies?

Our teams are encouraged to try new approaches and continuously improve. The Delivery Principles enable experimentation by providing a foundation from which we can experiment and test new methodologies. Along with our values, they provide guardrails for trying new things and a strategy for us to consciously understand if we’re experimenting within or out of the boundaries of our best practices.

 

Sling TV team
sling tv

There are probably as many adults looking for television and cable bundles as those who believe in Santa (that’s to say...not many). Sling TV fills that market gap by offering a live streaming app without long-term contracts. Now you can watch all the travel shows and baking competitions your heart desires. Below, IT Director Marc Paladino explains how they stay nimble in an ever changing industry. 

  

How does your software development team define their best practices? 

We work with a variety of sources to determine best practices, from certifications to conferences, trusted partners and industry experts. We are constantly on the lookout for the best thought leadership and seek to leverage that to inform how we will meet the unique challenges that we face every day. 

As we live and work in a dynamic, fast-paced and ever-changing industry, our process needs to be nimble to meet the demands of the business’s pace. At every turn, we seek to inform the climate of our work environment with these practices and ensure that we support and elevate our company, its culture and our people.

We work with a variety of sources to determine best practices, from certifications to conferences, trusted partners and industry experts.’’ 

 

How does your team balance a need to incorporate best practices into their work with the desire to try and test new methodologies and strategies?

I am very invested in the creation and ongoing sustainability of a learning environment for my team and our staff at DISH Grand Central. That certainly requires experimentation of new methodologies and strategy. To start, we question the efficacy of every new idea or test. Once that is firmly established, the next step is to evaluate whether that practice or process is aligned with the mission. Does it bring us closer to or further away from our vision? If we can systematically address these factors, we know we are on the right track and continue to invest in that direction.

 

CSG team
csg

CSG is in the business of solving tough challenges. So it should come as no surprise that they use a detailed framework to tackle questions of software development workflow. We spoke to Software Architect Bernie Sauer about what it’s like on the engineering side of an organization that helps their users improve customer service experiences, expand payment options and drive revenue growth. 

 

How does your software development team define their best practices? 

As one of over 40 software development teams at CSG, our best practices are built on a company culture of learning and self-improvement by embracing Lean thinking techniques. Using the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), our group has a foundation of leadership with a goal to deliver value continuously at a sustainable pace. 

It is through taking risks and learning from failure that we keep pushing to improve.’’  

 

How does your team balance a need to incorporate best practices into their work with the desire to try and test new methodologies and strategies?

Our team and CSG as a whole utilizes the principles of DevOps such as systems thinking, amplifying feedback and a culture of continual learning and experimentation to balance our best practices with the desire to try new things. It is through taking risks and learning from failure that we keep pushing to improve. We allocate time for improvement, take calculated risks and incorporate personal development with the flexibility to achieve a positive work-life balance.

 

Documoto team
documoto

The Documoto team abides by Albert Einstein’s assertion that insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. We recently spoke with Seth Thomas, director of engineering operations, about their project management system. He told us about their emphasis on not repeating past mistakes and how they make sure they’re consistently planning ahead. 

 

How does your software development team define their best practices?

We are firm believers in automation and allow our processes to reinforce best practices. By codifying these practices in our development, as well as our build and deployment pipelines, there is both clarity and the ability to iterate meaningfully. As we keep the iterations of our processes close to our code, we can avoid repeating past mistakes.

We focus on each team member’s agency to improve our workflows.’’ 

 

How does your team balance a need to incorporate best practices into their work with the desire to try and test new methodologies and strategies?

These don’t conflict. We focus on each team member’s agency to improve our workflows. Best practices should not be static. As your team evolves, so should the approach to the process. We’ve made several significant scale shifts in both our infrastructure and software by focusing on what improves our lives as developers and not worrying about whatever the past practices dictated. 

We’re a small, tight-knit team, which gives us the ability to adapt quickly. That said, we recognize that we’re building foundations for future growth. This creates a record of why we made decisions or changes to our best practices so that future employees have valuable context when making similar ones.

 

Turing School of Software and Design employees
Turing school of software and design


Software development best practices perfectly reflect Turing School of Software & Design’s company mindset: using research to back implementation. At the same time, especially in the world of academia, it can be easy to stray from industry practices. Ellen Mary Hickmann, senior director of programs, shared how her team emphasizes both rigorous investigation and current methodology. 

 

How does your team define their best practices? 

At Turing School, we take technical education very seriously and are continually refining our practices. We focus on research-based strategies to ensure student engagement and success. We regularly host focus groups of tech industry leaders and our own alumni to ensure our expectations for students align with industry demands and use that to inform our curriculum and process. Our instructors teach students to work through the known-unknowns that they will experience every day on the job as a software developer.  

We focus on small, frequent iterations.’’

 

How does your team balance a need to incorporate best practices into their work with the desire to try and test new software development methodologies and strategies?

People in the industry like to believe that it changes incredibly quickly, but the reality is that change happens across years and decades. The principles of analysis, problem-solving, smart collaboration and quality validation stay the same regardless of the newest framework or library. We focus on small, frequent iterations. Our team revises curriculum daily to try new content, formats and strategies. Then we measure the impact and outcomes for students. We always put student success first. Every change or decision is measured against that benchmark and made with one goal in mind: to prepare students for a thriving career in the tech industry.   

 

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