According to Wikipedia, “A best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means, or because it has become a standard way of doing things, e.g., a standard way of complying with legal or ethical requirements. Best practices are used to maintain quality as an alternative to mandatory legislated standards and can be based on self-assessment or benchmarking. A best practice is a feature of accredited management standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14001.”
According to Investopedia, “Best practices are a set of guidelines, ethics or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent course of action. Best practices are often set forth by an authority, such as a governing body or management, depending on the circumstances. While best practices generally dictate the recommended course of action, some situations require that industry best practices be followed.”
Why are Best Practices Important?
Best practices are important for processes that you need to work correctly. They are simply the best way to do things and have been worked out through trial and error, and are found to be the most sensible way to proceed.
A Best Practice Example: Using Child Themes in WordPress
For example, with WordPress, it is simply a best practice to set up sites using a child theme of the theme you like. By setting up a “child” theme, you prevent the site from crashing when a theme update occurs. If you are using the regular theme and an update occurs, then you lose all the changes that you have made to the original theme. If you are using a “child” theme, this doesn’t happen. The “child” theme insulates the site from the theme update changes.
I recently saw a good example of this when a client site crashed after a theme update because the theme had been extensively modified from its original code. If all code changes are handled in the “child” theme, then they are preserved when a theme update occurs. The “child” theme will still pull its styling and templates from the parent theme but it keeps changes separate from the parent theme coding. There is just no reason to not use a “child” theme and many, many reasons to do so.
This is but a single example. Best practices are not limited to WordPress or any Content Management System. They are inherent in all fields and areas of endeavor. In construction, you wouldn’t dream of doing a large job without several sets of blueprints. It is just best practice not to have only one set, which if you lost the set, or they were destroyed (which happens on construction sites) would leave you in quite a predicament.
What are Best Practices?
Finding best practices is simply taking the time to research what you are planning to do and finding the best way to go about getting it done. Establishing your own best practices for your own area of expertise or business is an important part of making everything work smoothly and efficiently. Best practices can keep evolving as new and better solutions are found or evolve from better awareness, new technology, or simply different ways of looking at things.
Many times, what may be accepted as best practices has not actually been checked out to find if it really is the very best way to do things or just a good way that has been successfully used for some time. This does not in any way mean that best practices should not be used until something better is found. The current best practices have been shown to be the most efficient way to work. In some fields, best practices may be rigidly defined while in others it may be more open in its application.
Where are Best Practices Applied?
This concept is extensively used in project management, auditing, healthcare, construction, or software development projects, among others. In accounting, the best practices are laid out in Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures, which the whole profession makes use of. Accounting would be an example of a field with a rigid set of best practices, as you want to be sure that economic figures are relevant and based upon a widely accepted standard.
It is just common sense to use best practices in whatever you are trying to accomplish. “Best practices” is simply what it says, the best practice. Similar projects tend to have similar aims and problems. Over time, answers have been found for many of those problems. Best practices try to keep people from continually reinventing the wheel. Sometimes it may take a little research to determine what best practices actually are for some endeavor but it is almost always worth the research time by the time saved and the betterment of the end result.
There is a wide range of best practices. They can vary from something as simple as making several sets of plans for a construction project to a software project using an iterative development process, quality control, requirements management, and change control. Each of those items would also be broken down into a subset of processes on a large software project. Consequently, the complexity can range from simple to very complex.
What is the Purpose of Using Best Practices?
Regardless of the complexity of your best practices, the aim is to make whatever you are doing work out better, faster, and more efficiently with fewer problems and mistakes. That is why it is always a good idea to be aware of what the best practices are for what you are trying to achieve. It is a framework for success and the minimization of failure. The whole field of project management deals extensively with the subject.
As an example, here are 10 project management best practices from Wrike:
1. Communicate with all stakeholders
2. Create a risk response team
3. Hold a project kick-off
4. Use a detailed work definition document
5. Create a detailed work plan
6. Document everything
7. Ask for feedback
8. Communicate the impact of project add-ons
9. Manage new agreements
10. Hold a wrap-up meeting
The point is that research and knowledge are valuable tools in your arsenal for success. Finding the best practices for your field or project can save a lot of time, trouble, and improve your results. Good luck with your projects.