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DevOps / Platform Engineering

Bringing Harmony to Chaos: A Dive into Standardization

Standardizing the non-functional elements of security, cost, compliance and observability is key for maintaining system strength and resilience.
Oct 30th, 2023 12:30pm by
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Companies with different engineering teams working on various products often emphasize the importance of standardization. This process helps align large teams, promoting effective collaboration despite their diverse focuses. By ensuring consistency in non-functional aspects, such as security, cost, compliance and observability, teams can interact smoothly and operate in harmony, even with differing priorities.

Standardizing these non-functional elements is key for maintaining system strength and resilience. It helps in setting consistent guidelines and practices across the company, minimizing conflicts. The aim is to seamlessly integrate standardization within these elements to improve adaptability and consistency.

However, achieving this standardization isn’t easy. Differences in operational methods can lead to inconsistencies. As we explore this further, it’s crucial to identify and tackle the challenges in standardizing these requirements.

Key Problems in Standardization

The aim of standardization is to create smooth and uniform processes. However, achieving this isn’t always easy. Challenges arise from different team goals, changing technology and the tendency to unnecessarily create something new. Let’s dive deeper into these issues to understand them.

1. Diverse team priorities and practices:

  • Complexity in large organizations: In companies with larger engineering teams dispersed across various projects, alignment can be a significant challenge. Different teams often operate under varying methodologies, tools and priorities.
  • Resistance to change: Established teams with set ways of working might resist adopting new standards, perceiving them as a hindrance to their established workflows or as unnecessary overhead.
  • Reinvention of the wheel: Absence of standardization can lead teams to create solutions from scratch, even if similar solutions already exist within the organization. This not only consumes additional resources but also leads to inconsistency across projects.

2. Knowledge transfer and documentation:

  • Evolution of tech landscape: The fast-paced nature of the tech industry means that standards and best practices evolve rapidly. Keeping documentation updated becomes an uphill task.
  • Misinterpretation: Relying solely on documents can lead to varied interpretations. This might result in different teams following the “same standard” in subtly different ways.
  • Engagement: Long, text-heavy standards documents can be tedious for teams to engage with, leading to skim-reading or outright avoidance.

3. Balancing rigidity and flexibility:

  • Innovation vs. uniformity: While standards are crucial for consistency, they should not stifle innovation. Striking a balance between enforcing uniform practices while allowing teams to innovate is crucial.
  • Local nuances: Global organizations have to cater to both worldwide standards and local specificities. This dual requirement can make standardization complex, as it might be challenging to create a one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Avoiding duplication: With flexibility, there’s a risk of teams independently developing similar tools or solutions (reinventing the wheel), instead of leveraging existing resources. This highlights the importance of a balance.

4. Resource and communication constraints:

  • Cost implications: Rolling out new standards or tools across an organization can be resource-intensive. There’s the direct cost of the new tools or platforms and the indirect costs of training, downtime and potential teething problems.
  • Effective communication: In dispersed or large teams, ensuring that every team member understands and adopts the new standard can be a significant challenge. This is compounded if the reasons for the change aren’t clearly communicated, leading to reluctance or resistance.
  • Inter-team collaboration: Different teams might be working on interdependent projects. Without effective communication and collaboration channels, the rollout of standards can lead to misalignments, redundancies or conflicts in the larger project ecosystem.

Guiding Harmony: Core Principles of Software Standardization

Now that we have discussed the issues arising from a lack of standardization, it’s essential to underline the importance of guiding principles. These principles serve as a roadmap, aligning all teams to a common goal. Let’s explore the key principles that can steer us toward standardization.

  • Artifact over documentation:
    • Importance: Moving away from an over-reliance on extensive documentation helps to streamline processes and promote a more hands-on approach.
    • Implementation: By prioritizing tangible artifacts of standard dashboards, compliance rules or backup policies, teams can have reusable components to work with, rather than sifting through heaps of documents.
  • Shipping validation early:
    • Importance: Addressing the above artifacts earlier in the software development life cycle (SDLC) prevents mistakes shipping to higher environments
    • Implementation: Integrate standardized protocols and checks during the initial design and development phases. This proactive approach mitigates errors that might be costlier and more time-consuming to rectify later on.
  • Creating golden paths:
    • Importance: A well-defined path provides a clear and efficient roadmap for teams to follow, ensuring they adhere to best practices.
    • Implementation: Establish comprehensive workflows that outline the best approaches to common tasks or challenges. This will serve as a reference point, minimizing variations and ensuring a uniform approach.
  • Adherence to global standards with flexibility:
    • Importance: While global standards offer a robust framework, every team has unique needs and challenges.
    • Implementation: Adopt globally recognized standards but allow teams some latitude to tailor approaches. This balance ensures that while your developers are closer to global standards, there’s room for customization based on project-specific requirements.
  • Building platform guarantees:
    • Importance: Open-ended platforms lead to platform abuse. Minimalistic interfaces with platform guarantees are key to efficient development.
    • Implementation: Whether it’s coding practices, deployment procedures or testing methodologies, ensure that the platform exposes an interface that is not open-ended or overwhelming and behind the scene guarantees outcomes based on the developer expectations.
  • Consistent developer-centric views:
    • Importance: Information overload can hinder productivity. Developers need relevant and timely information to act upon.
    • Implementation: Use intelligent systems to present relevant views and ability to shift through alerts, ensuring that only the pertinent ones are routed to the developers in a consistent fashion. By reducing noise and providing actionable insights, developers can focus on tasks that truly matter.

A Snapshot View of the Relationship between Key Principles and the Challenges Addressed

Key Principles Key Problems Addressed
1. Artifact over documentation Over-reliance on extensive documentation leading to inefficiencies and lack of real-time actionable tools.
2. Shipping validation early in SDLC Late discovery of non-compliance or deviations, leading to costlier and time-consuming rectifications.
3. Creating golden paths Inconsistencies in methodologies, leading to inefficiencies and mistakes. Lack of clear guidance or best practices.
4. Adherence to global standards with flexibility Bespoke standards that don’t cater to specific project requirements, leading to confusions and difficulty in onboarding new joiners.
5. Building platform guarantees Platform is not open-ended to leave a lot to the developers to do.
6. Consistent developer-centric views Information overload leading to reduced productivity. Developers are missing critical information amid the noise of non-pertinent ones.

Standardization: Why It Matters for Tech Requirements

Non-functional requirements like system performance and security are crucial. Standardization ensures these requirements are applied the same way everywhere. This means fewer differences and mistakes across teams.

Our deep dive showed that without standardization, big companies with many teams can face problems and inefficiencies. By using clear standardization rules, we make sure everyone is on the same page and systems work as they should.

Wrapping up: The Value of Consistency in Development

In software development, being consistent is key. Non-functional requirements are important, and using standard rules helps everyone do their best work. For big companies with lots of projects, standardization helps everything run smoothly.

The principles we talked about aren’t just rules; they’re the backbone of good development. Following them is smart. It means fewer problems and better results.

In short, if a company wants to grow and avoid issues, it needs standardization. It’s the secret sauce for success in a tech world that’s always changing.

This is part of a series on platform engineering. Read the entire series:



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