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5 Things You Need to Know About Pair Programming

Programming and development is a minefield of complexity, creativity, and technology. When a business problem needs solving, it often falls to these hardened defenders of the code to find a solution and save the day. Without the expertise of trusted developers, our entire digital ecosystem would fall into disrepair — it may have never even been made. 

Still, for the incredible importance of these individuals in business structure, all too often the work itself can be pushed to the side, leading to isolated individuals tackling huge problems that require more resources than they’re given. While there have been a host of strategies to alleviate this, pair programming is emerging as a panacea to the many issues that have plagued programming teams for decades.

What is pair programming?

Pair programming is the approach of creating duos of programmers to tackle a specific project or task. They will work collaboratively to develop the code and tackle any problems faced and will work simultaneously towards the end goal. It is a simple concept in truth and can be modified to suit your development team too, making it a flexible approach to development that has grown in popularity over time. 

Pair programming can be employed in development teams of all sizes, from start-ups with fewer than ten employees to huge businesses that routinely have enterprise meeting sessions of dozens of team members. 

With that said, the concept does invite a host of questions such as how is the work achieved without stepping on each other’s toes, what is the best approach to establishing a pair programming strategy, and is it even beneficial to apply two individuals to work on one problem? We’ll answer these below and explain the key bits of info you need to know. 

Pair Programming 1

5 things to know about pair programming

As adaptable as the concept is, there are a series of established ideas that most pair programming arrangements will adhere to.

There are 3 maExpert – Expertin styles to consider

The vast majority of pair programming setups will fall into one of three main methods — ping pong style, unstructured style, and the driver-navigator approach. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s worth exploring each to determine what works best for both the individuals and your business.

  • Ping-pong style

Ping-pong programming focuses on having developers push each other forward with a series of rotating test-based development. Once the problem has been identified and the requirements to resolve it established, one developer will create a test to benchmark successful code commits against. The other developer will program in accordance with those tests and seek to pass them. As the codebase matures and the tests are passed, they can swap roles and work towards a new goal. 

This is a great approach to ensure both developers are engaged and are working productively, though the time taken to complete tasks may be longer than other approaches.

  • Unstructured style

An unstructured style is pretty much what you’d expect — no-holds-barred collaborative development. Programmers are given the autonomy to determine how to best tackle the project and can create code in tandem or in silo of one another, however suits them best. 

While this can be a superb way of tackling complicated issues that require two sets of eyes, it can also lead to mismatched inputs and a loss of engagement if one developer outshines the other.

  • Driver-navigator approach

In this style, developers take two distinct roles. The driver creates all code and contributes the direct work, while the navigator will critique, examine, and help propel the driver forward in their efforts. 

For example, the navigator might research information — such as seeking to define ERM at the driver’s request in relation to the task they’re working on — or solutions to an impending issue while the driver continues making progress elsewhere. This helps ensure that work is always moving forward and that both developers feel supported. Roles will often swap over the course of a project, especially when areas of expertise present themselves and an individual can tackle them.

Pair Programming 2

Different pairings can lead to different results

The pairings of developers will have a marked impact on how a task and the individuals will progress. Most developer partnerships can be identified as the following:

  • Expert – Expert

Ideal for highly complex tasks that require vast amounts of knowledge or expertise to accomplish. Both developers will be highly skilled and can support each other in creative problem-solving and collaborative contribution to the codebase.

  • Expert – Novice

Ideal for medium-scale projects where both developers can partake in contribution and the senior developer has room to educate and monitor output before task completion. The novice benefits from expert guidance and support, while the expert gets the opportunity to educate and support another team member. 

This pairing is particularly effective when aiming for a minimum viable product, as the expert can guide the novice in focusing on essential features and functionalities to deliver a functional solution efficiently.

  • Novice – Novice

Ideal for simple or low-priority projects, where junior developers can spend time learning and growing with each other to resolve the issue. Best used as part of onboarding activities and training exercises, such as exploring the differences and benefits between Spark vs PySpark

Depending on whether you need absolute precision within a project or want to create learning opportunities for the team, pairing your developers correctly is a key part of effective pair programming management.

Pair Programming 3

Pair programming can boost morale while speeding up projects

Let’s say your development team is tasked with building a framework allowing for artificial intelligence in customer experience monitoring, and a series of required functions are outlined — live monitoring of data, and export tools for third-party manipulation at a minimum. A project of this scope might seem unmanageable for an individual to tackle, but a pair of expert programmers can work together to break it down and succeed. 

The morale boost from working together cannot be understated, especially when things get challenging, and there will be time saved from having additional resources working on a task. In many cases, simply having support when facing difficult circumstances can be the difference between success and failure.

Additionally, with the right infrastructure, like dedicated hosting, teams can ensure consistent and reliable performance, even when working remotely.This is particularly crucial for industries such as finance, where data security and confidentiality are paramount concerns. Therefore, pair programming becomes an indispensable strategy for a finance software development company, ensuring both efficiency and security in collaborative coding efforts.

Pair programming can work remotely with the right tools

With modern technology, it’s incredibly easy for developers to work remotely and still work in pairs contributing to a shared codebase, communicating effectively the whole way. While it is still recommended for teams to work side-by-side when contributing to a single resource, remote working provides a viable alternative that supports modern practices in 2024. 

There are several tools that can help facilitate quality output, such as robust communication tools — shared or remote desktop access, screen sharing capabilities, and reliable text and voice communication apps all help to build a seamless experience for developers working as a pair.

Additionally, it’s essential to prioritize security measures, including DMARC compliance, to ensure the protection of sensitive information and maintain a secure development environment. This helps prevent email spoofing and phishing attacks by allowing domain owners to specify how their emails should be authenticated and handled by receiving mail servers.

Pair Programming 4

Not every pairing is going to work out

The unfortunate truth is that everyone isn’t always going to get along. Some personalities clash, and some methods of working won’t lead to an effective partnership. Instead of pushing the issue, if you see problems arise then act to make a change. 

This can present itself in stagnation on a project, low output, complaints from a team member, or a lack of contribution by an individual. Always monitor these factors to ensure that everyone is happy and working towards a common goal.

How can pair programming be helpful?

Much in the way that AI in communication appears magical in its ability to transform internal and external comms, an established development pair is capable of programming wizardry they’d be unable to achieve alone. 

Think of pair programming as a force multiplier to expedite projects, as a method to train individuals in a real-world environment, and to learn more about your individual developers themselves and their capabilities. It’s a flexible tool to help break programmers out of ruts, promote their personal development, and let them showcase their creativity in a supportive atmosphere.

Pair Programming 5

Can pair programming be harmful?

There are some risks to consider when actively pursuing a pair programming approach. Many of these can be mitigated with proper care, and some will only arise when the pairs themselves are not working effectively. 

The main challenges to be aware of include:

  • Increased cost per project
  • Lengthier time to complete some projects
  • Less capacity to tackle multiple projects
  • Internal conflicts

As long as you monitor your teams closely, the above issues can be largely sidestepped, and the benefits of pair programming can truly shine.

The next steps

Start thinking about how you can implement pair programming strategies into your upcoming projects. If you have reports of stalled development or frustration from individual programmers, that’s the perfect time to explore pair programming and provide a fresh approach for the team to get involved with. 

Always remain attentive and agile in your actions when managing pairs. If they’re unhappy or ineffective, don’t be afraid to switch things up and keep changing the dynamic. When things start working, that’s your cue to step away and let them get on with the task at hand. Pair programming can help breathe new life into tired development processes and get teams working creatively again.

Bio:

Jessica True
Jessica True – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy & Operations

Jessica True is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy and Operations at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.

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How to Conduct an Effective Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

In today’s digital landscape, it is not a question of if an organization will experience a cyber risk, but when. It is therefore essential for anyone working in information security to be fully informed and equipped when it comes to risk management, measuring, and evaluation. 

A cyber risk assessment is a document of an organization’s process of identifying digital assets, detailing potential threats, determining the likelihood of a data breach, and establishing controls to mitigate those risks. This document works to keep stakeholders informed, support proper responses to identified risks, and provide an executive summary to aid in security decisions. 

Risk assessments are a key part of becoming cyber resilient, but it can be difficult to know where to start. This article will walk you through when and how to conduct an effective cybersecurity risk assessment.

code

When should you perform a risk assessment?

All cybersecurity strategies should start with a risk assessment

A cybersecurity risk assessment is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Engaging in detailed asset management, review, and control-setting practices arms the organization with all the information it needs about its IT landscape and all the associated risks. 

This can be time-consuming, but it is a necessary process. Without this solid foundation of knowledge, organizations may fail to implement the proper controls further down the line.

Yearly assessments keep you informed about potential threats

Most compliance regulations mandate that organizations review their risk assessment at least once per year. Organizations should document this annual review by taking the minutes during a risk assessment meeting to prove their compliance. 

Don’t wait for a reason to do your yearly check. For example, if there was an issue with your outbound call center solutions, it would be preferable to identify the risk early during a routine check, rather than while doing damage control after a customer data breach.

When adopting new tech or systems in your organization

When planning to make any significant changes to your IT stack, it is important to formally review your cybersecurity risk assessment. While the definition of “significant changes” is subjective, it’s best practice to review after introducing any innovative technology which alters your infrastructure and could open your system up to new risks. 

For example, when onboarding new virtual PBX solutions, organizations should review their cybersecurity to make sure no sensitive data will be compromised in the transition to a new method of communication. Similar events triggering the need to review risk would include the addition of a new firewall provider, or the migration of a database from on-premises to cloud.

Following major changes such as mergers or upgrades

Structural changes, such as one company merging with another, can cause increased security risks. With operations in transition, high-value data becomes more vulnerable to threats. In Devsecops IT culture, responsibility for delivering secure software is shared between development and operations teams. 

When businesses merge, then, this becomes a collaboration between the development and operations teams of multiple organizations – allowing more potential for malicious actors to disrupt the transfer and sharing of data. 

It is important, therefore, to conduct thorough risk assessments and identify additional measures which need to be in place during the period of change.

meeting

After security incidents to determine and prevent breach

When a security incident takes place, a risk assessment is a crucial tool. It’s important to investigate root causes and try to get to the bottom of what went on as swiftly as possible. You want to gain a thorough understanding of the specific vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the existing system which allowed the breach to occur. 

These insights will be valuable for the continuous improvement of your security system – they tell you what needs to be fixed to prevent the same incident in future. The risk assessment document will also be useful for legal proceedings, insurance claims, and compliance reports, and for ensuring transparent communication with affected parties.

How to conduct an effective cybersecurity risk assessment

Determine the scope including assets, systems, and data

The first step is about identifying assets and determining the scope of the assessment. Thanks to visibility issues in increasingly complex systems, this is often the most difficult part of the process. For instance, as businesses move from monolithic to microservice architecture (here’s a good monolithic application example), data becomes spread across a larger application comprising multiple independent databases and modular services communicating via APIs. 

Start by listing valuable assets. This includes all devices on the network, company and customer data, and every location which stores, processes, and transmits data. For each one, gather information such as its purpose, end-point users, network topology, security controls, and functional requirements. 

Additionally, you should identify risky users which may increase security risk. You’ll need this comprehensive list of all assets and users later on when making decisions about which assets to prioritize.

laptop and mobile

Evaluate and test infrastructure vulnerabilities and weaknesses

A vulnerability is a weakness which could be exploited to steal data or otherwise harm the organization. Threats include system failure, human error, and adversarial threats like hackers and malware. Organizations must guard themselves against unauthorized access, data leaks, and misuse of insider information. 

But evaluating weaknesses is not just about what “could” happen; it is a realistic assessment of what is most likely to happen based on the current security infrastructure. Vulnerabilities can be found and tested via vulnerability analysis, auditing, and software security analysis.

Classify data based on sensitivity and importance

Now you know which assets you are protecting, and which weaknesses need to be patched. Armed with this information, you can categorize your organization’s data according to its sensitivity and importance. You’re looking for critical data that would have the most significant impact on operations and stakeholders if it was to be compromised – in terms of money, reputational damage, and customer trust. 

You should also keep in mind which data is in the most precarious position, based on the vulnerabilities and weaknesses you have identified. Think about how bad the impact of a breach would be, but also how likely such an event is. 

So, if you had a database valued at $50 million. In the event of a breach, you estimate that at least half the data would be exposed before it could be contained, meaning a loss of around $25 million. 

However, if this is an unlikely possibility – say, a one in fifty-year occurrence, this would be equivalent to losing $25 million every 50 years, which translates to half a million per year. This estimation is extremely helpful when setting the annual budget for your data security program.

Assess your organization’s regulatory compliance

You also need to think about compliance risk: would a data breach lead to a compliance violation? If there are fines or penalties involved, this would be an expensive mistake. Conduct a thorough review of all security operations to identify any areas where you are not fully compliant with necessary regulations. 

One of the reasons compliance is so difficult is that businesses often have data spread across so many devices, storage systems, databases, and networks that it is hard to look at every aspect of the system at once and identify shortcomings. Using a data warehouse, you can access current and historical data from multiple sources in one place for easier insights and reporting.

compliance

Develop a risk mitigation plan for identified vulnerabilities

Based on the data you have collected, create a comprehensive risk mitigation plan. This should include strategies to address each vulnerability you identified, be it technical solutions, process improvements, or alternate measures that minimize the likelihood and impact of a potential security incident. 

Risk mitigation controls are your first line of defense. For vulnerable devices, typical controls  include installing anti-virus software, encrypting data, updating security patch policy and processes, and hardening systems. In terms of storage, processing, and transmission risk, mitigation controls may be things like virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, or network segmentation. 

There are also user access mitigation controls, such as limiting access according to privilege, using role-based access controls (RBACs), implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), or even passwordless authentication

The more specific you can be about the necessary fixes, the better. That’s why the identification stage was important: you should have a detailed understanding of your entire digital ecosystem. For example, best practices when mitigating threats in CI/CD environments will be different to traditional on-premise systems. Understanding these nuances allows for the implementation of mitigation controls specific to the situation.

Provide cybersecurity awareness training for employees

Just as you offer training on more basic IT concepts to answer employee questions such as what is a data warehouse, you should absolutely train your staff on cybersecurity. Don’t let human error be a bigger factor in cybersecurity incidents than it has to be. 

Make sure your teams are up-to-date on the latest phishing scams and best practices to stay safe. Educating everyone on the importance of cybersecurity empowers individuals to keep their own devices secure, supporting and enhancing the overall security posture of your company.

Evaluate the security practices of third-party partners

It is vital to ensure that third-party partners, suppliers, and vendors meet the same security standards as your organization. Assess cybersecurity practices of all external partners, establish clear guidelines, and schedule regular assessments. 

Moreover, with the increasing prevalence of AI in communication industry solutions, it is especially important to access the practices of partners leveraging artificial intelligence. Understanding the associated risks and implementing appropriate security measures is key to safeguarding sensitive information in AI-powered platforms or communication tools.

Maintain records of risk assessments and actions taken

The process of undertaking a risk assessment is valuable, but equally important is the documentation of the process. Businesses need to keep thorough records of each risk assessment, detailing assets, vulnerabilities, mitigation controls, and actions taken. This record is a useful tool, not only serving as a reference for future security risk assessments but also supporting compliance reports and future audits.

Conclusion

By investing the time to identify and document all assets, weaknesses, and mitigation controls, you can be sure to conduct an effective cybersecurity risk assessment. However, this is not a static document. 

You should be continually updating your risk assessment to keep up with the dynamic and evolving risk landscape. Continuous monitoring and improvement are key to remaining vigilant against cyber threats.

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jessica true
Jessica True – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy & Operations, Dialpad

Jessica True is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy and Operations at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.