The Software Development Practices These Engineering Leaders Swear By

by Alton Zenon III
November 14, 2019

There are a few tried and true practices software engineers trust to keep their code timely and systematic, and one of those methods is experimentation. 

“We curate and share our practices and the best rise to the top,” said Ed Calusinski, VP of enterprise architecture at Discover Financial Services.

This collaborative, democratic approach to determining best software development practices is a trend we’ve noticed across businesses. Whether you’re an engineering leader working in fintech or natural language generation, the benefits of giving your dev team the freedom to experiment and get creative — think regular hackathons and technical design reviews — are clear. 

 

Discover Financial Services team chatting
Discover Financial Services

Ed Calusinski said his team at Discover Financial Services is always looking to improve; if they discover a strategy or a tool that will help them optimize the company’s financial services — credit card, loan or otherwise — they’ll use it.

The VP of enterprise architecture said this willingness to embrace the new at the banking and payment solutions provider is balanced with using established processes that have been successful in the past.

 

How does your software development team define their best practices?

By definition, a best practice is the result of experimenting with change to make things better; we encourage that throughout the organization. Our approach is focused on providing a baseline for our methods, tools and standards, then allowing teams to innovate in the context of their everyday habits, where it matters most. 

We curate and share our practices and the best rise to the top. Teams are constantly looking for more efficient ways of doing their work, so when they spot something that can help them, they jump on it. This approach fits well within our culture of innovation and frankly, it is essential when competing in the fintech market.

We encourage experimentation and finding new ways of working to help us stay competitive.”

 

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? 

In many ways, these are symbiotic, as one feeds the other and we celebrate that relationship. We encourage experimentation and finding new ways of working to help us stay competitive. Culturally, we celebrate the fast learnings of our experimentation — both failures and successes — as a means of continuous improvement. It fits well within our Agile delivery model.

 

Narrative Science team in group photo
narrative science

Every company’s data tells a different story, and Narrative Science uses natural language generation to tell those stories for clients in plain English. 

Data Architect and Software Engineering Manager Jeremy Engle said their engineers constantly discover new methodologies through company-sponsored hackathons. Those strategies are then validated through technical design reviews.

 

How does your software development team define their best practices?

All of our best practices take into account our company virtues: team first, mission-driven, impactful and innovative. We also consider industry standards and the people on our team.

Best practices are owned and changed by the team using them, which lets them move fast in modifying those practices. Engineering procedures are owned by senior engineering technical leaders and are changed via collaborations of technical leaders and team members. 

We think one of the most dangerous phrases in business is ‘we have always done it this way.’”

 

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?

We believe that innovation is a best practice. We think one of the most dangerous phrases in business is “we have always done it this way.” We run regular hackathons, have an incubation team and incorporate technical design review as a standard part of our software development life cycle. 

At a team level, we reinforce the ideas of using prototypes to explore technical ideas. Our teams are accountable for optimizing delivery, so if they believe a change to process or best practice will help, they are free to do it while making sure to track the impact of the change.

 

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