Consultancy benefits from green coding certification mandate

In this Q&A, GFT CTO Dean Clark details how his company's green coding certification program is bringing benefits beyond higher-quality, more efficient code.

Digital transformation consultancy GFT Technologies has implemented a successful companywide green coding certification program for all employees -- from engineers to marketing managers.

That's according to Dean Clark, CTO of GFT's U.K. division, who has championed the inclusion of green coding certification in every GFT employee's objectives. The program centers around the adoption of green principles and procedures -- like choosing simpler file sizes or more efficient APIs -- to minimize software's energy consumption. The fledgling program started less than a year ago, and 90% of GFT's U.K. employees have achieved certification status. In addition to producing higher-quality, more efficient code, the program is helping to cut carbon emissions and trim GFT clients' electricity costs, according to Clark.

In this Q&A, Clark shares details of GFT's green coding certification program and its benefits.

What is behind your interest in green coding?

Dean Clark: About 12 years ago, I started to understand the foibles and pitfalls of development -- what the best practices need to be, and the development frameworks and methodologies that you should use to get the most out of your code. And one of the things that I saw even going all the way back into the '90s when I was a database administrator is that over time, the programming languages, the frameworks, and the third-party libraries that have been introduced into the industry to enable people to deliver more rapidly and at scale have gone the opposite way in terms of helping our energy efficiency. What used to be stunted -- such as, you had to do something in a certain length of code -- became a complete free-for-all.

We decided as an organization that it made sense to ensure our engineers are not just equipped with best practices, in terms of how they develop and how they write code for customers, but also about the messaging they take with them and the understanding of why that is a good thing to do.
Dean ClarkCTO, GFT Technologies

You ended up with some good programmers who were efficient -- they would look for the best ways to write functions to be more modular with their code and enforce reuse -- but you also got a lot of early-days scripters who got into bad habits and produced some horrid, inefficient code.

What's behind GFT's adoption of green coding?

Clark: We've been engaged with one or two of our clients where the green topic is something that not just the stakeholders within the organization, but some of the main engineers as well have been interested in. And it's not just from a coding perspective -- it's also from a product perspective. We've helped build a platform that's focused on green bonds, for instance. That's looking at specific funds, and it's focused on things such as renewable energy and carbon emission cutting.

We decided as an organization that it made sense to ensure our engineers are not just equipped with best practices, in terms of how they develop and how they write code for customers, but also about the messaging they take with them and the understanding of why that is a good thing to do.

What does GFT's training program look like?

Clark: Within the first quarter, engineers will be expected to attain the green coding developer certificate. Internally, we've created several learning and training sessions over video. We get all our engineers worldwide to go through that -- we have a number of modular exams at the end of the training that they need to pass to become a certified green coder within GFT. We also have certifications for architects, managers and project managers. It's for everyone. Even Tim [Osler], our marketing manager, is a certified green coder.

Having launched this about nine months ago, we now have over 1,000 certified globally within GFT, and about 90% of the U.K. [employees are] fully certified. That's an objective that's come from me personally -- top down through the organization, it has been pushed through everybody's objectives this year to make sure that they attain a green coding certification.

What do you have in place to make sure the developers are using the green coding skills that they've been certified for?

Dean Clark, CTO, GFT TechnologiesDean Clark

Clark: With any GFT-led delivery, we have code reviews. We have a buddy system when coding -- pair programming -- to make sure that at least one of the pair has an eye on 'most efficient code' rather than 'how does it work' code. That is baked into our delivery system. On top of that, we have delivery managers who are undertaking reviews of the program. We also have a very deep QA and testing team, looking for things like, 'Is the code repetitive? Can this be pulled and written as a function, module or class?'

There are situations where we are in a client's team, so for instance, they might provide the Scrum Master and three or four developers on a team. We might provide half a dozen people into the team to augment their capability. It's more difficult in that scenario, but what we're trying to do there is teach them through osmosis and show the best practices that we have, and we try to embed green coding into the sprints as we go.

What are the program benefits?

Clark: I'm hoping that it enables us to produce such good-quality and efficient code that our clients then say, 'Your code is much better quality than everybody else. Please tell me how you're doing this.'

As a side story, we can also then talk about how it's cutting down emissions, it's cutting down electricity costs, it could also lead to reductions in their data center and energy bills. But we're not just focusing on work that is on premises. We're also taking that into the cloud, with some native cloud development techniques as well.

What does the future look like?

Clark: We've started to track some of the KPIs around the numbers of projects where we are actively discussing green coding with clients, not just about best practices -- i.e., 'You should be better at coding' -- but including, 'This is going to produce lower carbon emissions.'

We're trying to record those where possible. One of the things that I would like to see from us over the second half of the year is to try to produce a client case study or success story that includes some of that messaging, where the client believes green coding practices have been fundamental to the success of the project.

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