by Elliot Christenson on November 8, 2016 - 11:19am

In talking to Drupal shops and agency about how they do support, we've sometimes heard something like:

We have junior developers / paid interns handle one-off support and maintenance requests as a way to train them!

We provide white-label fixed-monthly-cost support for agencies, so I am a little biased. :-) But I used to run a small Drupal agency and I truly believe that there are a number of potential issues with this view.

From my perspective, certainly: IT IS NOT OK to leave support and maintenance to junior developers.

I'll try to give some detail to explain my viewpoint on this... Read on to learn more!

Support is Harder

In all but the most trivial of cases, support is almost always more difficult than normal development.

For starters, if you are maintaining code that you didn't build, that's always a struggle. However, it can even get deeper than that. If it was such a simple request, why wasn't it built into the project from the beginning? If it's a bug fix, we all know that bug fixes sometimes introduce other issues.

More experienced support and maintenance developers not only have more knowledge, but they have encountered a much more diverse array of situations, coding styles and project types. They can consider other possible things on the the site that may be affected or considerations that need to be brought to the customer right way.

Live server

Most of the time, when these little requests crop up, they are to support an end-user. Drupal end-users typically are utilizing the live production website. If you are supporting them: you have to too!

While you likely have a workflow where you make changes on a dev/staging site first, odds are you're at least giving the junior developer a Drupal login to the live site so they can see what the customer is seeing, or even assist with content or configuration changes. Odds are, the junior developer has admin permissions.

The risk of something going wrong on the live server is very high with inexperienced developers.

Common problems and best practice

Common problems might be old-hat for a seasoned veteran support and maintenance professional, but everything is new for newer developers. There is a huge time investment in learning and developing best practices. There is a huge time investment - often in mistakes - that allows developers to truly understand which changes are simple, which problems have common solutions, and what approaches are most effective for complex issues.

Do you want these mistakes happening while directly supporting customers?

Not only that, but there is a stronger possibility that a junior developer will leave the website worse off than it was to start with! It doesn't take too many of these quagmires for you to realize that it's probably not a good to allow your clients to be test subjects for your junior developers to learn!

1 Hour: Solved

When a client sends a support request comes in, the clocking is ticking to get it solved.

A junior dev can churn for hours and not find the solution. An experienced support and maintenance developer can often get all but the most complex small issues completed in just a few hours - often less.

Junior developers become senior through development!

That may seem silly to say, but it's the truth. The path from junior dev to senior dev is a path of development. Support and maintenance won't help your junior developers become senior developers. That does a disservice to them, your team, and your clients!

Instead, they should be doing development, with the review and active participation of the senior developers in a safe environment where it's OK to break things. In other words, doing project work like site builds and new features!

For all of the reasons above, we're convinced that one-off support and maintenance tasks should be left to senior developers.

Of course, if your senior developers aren't interested in doing support and maintenance or have a full plate on other projects, well, you can outsource this work to another organization like us. :-) With our white label support and maintenance offering, you can take on more profitable projects, do a better job for your clients - and properly energize and educate your staff.


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