Corporate frameworks and corporate standards

Most IT departments manage multiple projects and applications. As you go from project to project, you inevitably will find better ways to do things. Then at some point, someone might decide to get the smartest people together and come up with the one corporate framework to rule them all. All future projects will use the new framework, which makes sense because we’ve taken all of our good ideas and combined them so that other developers don’t have to go down the wrong path. I’ve had this idea before, it’s a great idea, right? We’ll have less risk of failure and we won’t constantly reinvent the wheel.

Companies think that by doing this, they will reduce the risk of failed projects. But they are buying into two things that are fundamentally incorrect — that they won’t be able to ever come up with a better way of doing things and that all projects are the same.

Ultimately what is lost when corporate standards are mandated is innovation. Developers are smart people, and many of them are trying to find new and better ways of doing things. If you don’t encourage them to find a better way, either they’ll quit trying, feel defeated because they can’t change things for the better, or get upset that the process is hindering them from getting things done better or faster.

Also, all projects are different. I’ve been on many “agile” projects, and every one did things differently. This is good because working on a two-person team at a startup is much different than working in an enterprise IT shop. I heard of one company who was trying to do an “agile transformation” so that they could find a methodology that they could standardize across the enterprise. It’s great to see people adopt agile practices (which are generally good), but trying to “standardize” so that everyone has to do things to same is directly opposed to the agile idea of continuous improvement. (Often times, the standardization of methodologies is mainly done so that common metrics can be established by which to judge teams, which encourages teams to game the system to make their metrics look better instead of solely trying to provide business value in the best way possible.)

The Alternative

What if instead of mandating that everyone used the same corporate framework, we encouraged teams to come up with the best way of doing things and then share them with other teams so that they can adopt each others’ best ideas if they so desire?

What if instead of mandating a framework, we created a repository of random pieces of code that people could pick from to do common tasks (e.g. an authentication library that authenticate to some corporate server)?

What if we stopped being obsessed with metrics and measuring teams and just went out and got the best developers that we could find, and then gave them everything they needed to do an awesome job?