Robert Bogue raises some challenging questions and makes some powerful statements in his post, How Best are Your Best Practices, regarding his experiences and struggles with reaching consensus on what a best practice is and applying it. I was in the middle of posting a comment to his post when I realized my thoughts on the post were quite a bit more than a couple of lines in a comment box. And without further adeu, here are my thoughts…
Doing what we know we should do
In his post, Robert asks, “when are we going to do what we say?” This question was in context of his findings that there are very few professionals out there that actually use the best practices they know. From a consulting professional perspective, I feel that failing to do what we know we should do is ethically wrong. Clients and customers pay for our expertise and deserve to get it. While I agree that the SharePoint space is so large that even experienced professionals are learning something new about SharePoint on a daily basis, we need to ensure that make use of the best practices that we do know in every project that we undergo regardless of its size and complexity. This is our duty as professionals.
On defining best practices
I agree with Robert when he states that the definition of best practices has been a problem space in software development that has yet to be resolved. There are many reasons for this. But let me list a couple:
- Academically, software engineering methodologies regarding the definition of development practices are still in their infancy. While a lot of progress has been made in this area in the last few decades, software development is not a hard science. Some of us consider it more of an art than a science.
- While progress has been made academically in this problem space, there is a large disconnect between academic approaches to the problem and practical approaches used in the industry. I think some of this has to do with the cost of trying different frameworks that generate process and procedures that still end in leading a good number IT and software projects to failure.
So what can we do to help reach consensus on best practices? Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to this question right now. What I can tell you is that what ever practice we do try to use, whether a best practice or not, we should make the effort to take review how the practice helped or hindered us, learn from the experience, and share it so that we may continue to define new best practices and debunk those practices that are not so best anymore (assuming they really were a best practice at one time).