Can you afford best practices?

You are about to begin a new web project. You have proposals from a dozen agencies. Each agency promises they will deliver the best solution, on time and within budget, while following best practices. You make your selection, knowing that all projects hit speed bumps, but executive management has been given a go-live date and that date cannot change.

If you select an ethical agency, they will inform you along the way, if too may speed bumps appear, that they cannot deliver on the go-live date without cutting corners. You may decide the best course of action is to cut back on the best practices. After all, best practices are not mandatory practices, right?

If you select an unethical agency, they will agree to the original go-live date and never inform you how they will accomplish it. The agency certainly isn’t going to incur a 20% increase in costs out of kindness. They are more likely to decide to cut back on best practices. Remember, they aren’t mandatory practices.

Either way, the go-live date will arrive and your project will launch. Executives will be happy and all your co-workers will congratulate you on a well-run project. It will look like those best practices truly were not mandatory practices after all.

What happens next?

Of course, best practices are called that for a reason. The most common scenario in place today is for an agency to deliver a project and leave the client to maintain the project with developers already on staff. These developers are almost always unfamiliar with the project and almost always asked, in an all-hands-on-deck emergency, to “fix this” or “add that” for the super important deadline that everyone in the company forgot about until the CEO asked someone about it.

The poor developers will have no time to ramp up on the project, no time to look at the architecture, and no time to make the best decision for the project long term. So, the developers will do what all developers do when rushed and deliver what was asked for, the bare minimum solution that will get you out of the jam using the fastest possible method available. "That was close," you'll think.

One day, you will be tasked with delivering an add-on project because of your success with the last. You will reach out to agencies for proposals, and they will come pouring in. As you review them, you'll start to wonder, "Why are these new proposals so high, and why do they want to start over? We already paid a lot of money last year to develop this entire project from scratch using best practi…" and that’s when it hits you. The actual cost of best practices is not in implementing them, but instead it is in not implementing them. Those corners you chose to cut, or the agency chose to cut for you, will be staring you in the face in this situation.

Why you can't afford NOT to follow best practices

At some point, however, all the cut corners form a nice round shape. The kind that rolls really fast once things start going downhill. There will come a point where the entire project will have to be started over from scratch if the fall is not arrested and that cost directly affects your return on investment and your reputation.

Have you ever stopped to wonder if Windows 10 is a complete re-write? Do you think Microsoft has any code in Windows 10 that has existed from previous versions; like maybe DOS? Haven’t heard of DOS? That’s because it stopped being mentioned roughly in 1994. That’s right, there is code from 1994 still in your Windows 10 based computer. No, Microsoft is not perfect. They do however understand that following best practices allows them to build on a foundation that can support their business for years to come.

Therefore, how do you sum up the importance of best practices? Maybe the best way is to point out that if Microsoft cannot afford to avoid them, most likely your company cannot either.