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How to get away with enterprise software development

0 – YAGNI

Before we even write the first line of code, remember that not doing something at all is occasionally a valid option. The YAGNI principle may be applied to various aspects of software development projects. Can we use an existing library for Task X? Was feature Y really part of the specification provided by the stakeholders? Did we use market research to figure out if product Z we are about to create provides any meaningful value for the target audience? You may be surprised how often developers rush in to „save the day“ just to find out that X is on nuget, Y was never really needed and Z is already being rolled out by a competitor.

1 – Collaborate!

Communication is key and nothing beats face-to-face when it comes to implementing a software solution. But as soon as at least one member of your team is not sitting in the same room, things change. To be clear: if one member of your team is collaborating online, everyone has to. Apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams offer a great way to tie your workflow together but it is important that the entire team commits to a set of tools before the project begins.

2 – Scale your team

David Fowler recently tweeted

As a senior engineer, you have to decide if it’s better to do things
yourself or help junior developers grow

which brings me to the often shunned topic of knowledge management. Transferring personal knowledge to a colleague might be one of the hardest parts in your career but the reward is a team that truly scales. By the time you realize that you or a member of your team is a knowledge bottleneck you might already be knee-deep in a customer project, so plan accordingly.

3 – Code Outside-in, code SOLID

Ultimately, when starting to code, we should aim to produce clean and maintainable code. The outside-in approach focuses on satisfying the needs of stakeholders but I also like to apply it coding. It turns out that Visual Studio has pretty good support for sketching out the flow of your program without implementing the actual methods right away – a great way to do TDD, by the way. When you get down to the implementation it is prudent to adhere to design principles like SOLID or DRY and yet, realizing them is easier said than done. It’s easy to tell that methods with more than 100 lines of code probably have a complexity problem and that the same method shouldn’t appear five times across your code base. But, for example, getting inheritance or interfaces „right“ is usually a tad more difficult. I have found these basic tips pretty helpful:

  • keep your units of code small and focused
  • work your way from outside (i.e. user interface) down to the bottom layer
  • separate storage access code from your business logic and your business logic from the user interface
  • (integration- / unit-) test the hell out of everything you write

In the end, only writing code will help you improve writing even more code.

And reading a good book.

And getting involved with open source code.

4 – Git yourself a proper version control system

If you are still using centralized source control systems like SVN or TFVC, you might want to take a good look at git. Besides being used by major tech companies like Google, Microsoft or Netflix, it is easily the best way to implement a smooth feature branch workflow for your team, which is, in my opinion, a prerequisite for agile software development.

5 – Build, Test, Deploy – Automate all the things

If you’re reading this you’ve probably already written a console or web application, built it in your favorite IDE, tested it on your local machine and copied the binaries over to a file share or a web server. Enter DevOps, a set of practices that basically tells us to automate all the things we might have been doing by hand for too long. With the advent of cloud based applications and development tools it’s become extremely simple to spin up a complete DevOps environment in no time. But for smaller projects, even a simple script that builds a release version of your library and creates a nuget package is a first step towards automation. Eventually, this kind of automation reduces friction and increases confidence for you and your team.

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