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VA Technical Reference Model v 24.4

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The following definitions are intended to be applicable only in the context of the VA TRM.

Term Definition
Best Practice A best practice is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive, or reward that is believed to be more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. when applied to a particular condition or circumstance. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. Best practices can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people. A best practice can be adopted as a standard process (VA Handbook) or be used as a guideline.
Best practices may show us how to improve performance, throughput, or memory usage. For Java code, "Avoid String concatenation - use the StringBuffer class instead to concatenate strings", is a good example of a best practice. Experience has shown time and again that liberal use of String concatenation seriously impacts the performance of a system.
Guideline A guideline is a statement by which to determine a course of action. A guideline aims to streamline particular processes according to a set routine or sound practice. By definition, following a guideline is never mandatory. Guidelines are not binding and are not enforced.
As an example, the statement "In addition to giving variables meaningful names, thought should be given to where variables are declared. As a general rule, local variables should be declared at the beginning of the block of code" can be considered a guideline. By following it, developers increase the readability of their code, therefore the ease of maintenance, but they may declare local variables in other parts of the code without jeopardizing its quality.
Policy A policy is a mandatory principle typically established by senior management, which is adopted by an organization or project to influence and determine decisions.
  • VA Directives are documents prescribing mandatory Department- or Administration-wide policies.
  • VA Handbooks are documents prescribing mandatory Department- or Administration-wide procedures or operational requirements implementing policies contained in directives.
Software Technology Software technology is software that is acquired to support Information Technology (IT) business. Software technologies include any code that your team did not create. This includes commercial products, open source/freeware libraries, frameworks, and helper classes.
Standard A standard refers to one or more related specifications that have been sanctioned or recognized externally by standards development organizations, have been widely used and accepted by industry, have been mandated by government policy, or have been internally sanctioned or mandated for use by the VA. Standards may be expressed in a variety of ways, such as with hardware and software specifications, code sets, and terminologies and may identify policies, guidelines, characteristics, constraints, and/or conformance criteria. Standards listed in the TRM are enforced and are enforceable based on external or VA-defined conformance criteria.
Locked Category A locked category is a category in which no additional technologies can be approved or approved with constraints. Locked categories have been reviewed by the senior executive leadership of the Office of Information and Technology. Approved entries in a locked category represent the optimal tool set for providing the VA with all required capabilities without unnecessary duplication. Any further requests for technologies or standards classified as belonging to a locked category must receive a decision of Unapproved or Prohibited. Locked categories are reviewed regularly.