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9. Choose open by default. Democratize feature flag access.

Allowing engineers, product owners, and even technical support to have open access to a feature flagging system is essential for effective development, debugging, and decision-making. These groups should have access to the system, along with access to the codebase and visibility into configuration changes:

  1. Debugging and Issue Resolution:

    • Code Access: Engineers should have access to the codebase where feature flags are implemented. This access enables them to quickly diagnose and fix issues related to feature flags when they arise. Without code access, debugging becomes cumbersome, and troubleshooting becomes slower, potentially leading to extended downtimes or performance problems.
  2. Visibility into Configuration:

    • Configuration Transparency: Engineers, product owners, and even technical support should be able to view the feature flag configuration. This transparency provides insights into which features are currently active, what conditions trigger them, and how they impact the application's behavior. It helps understand the system's state and behavior, which is crucial for making informed decisions.

    • Change History: Access to a history of changes made to feature flags, including who made the changes and when, is invaluable. This audit trail allows teams to track changes to the system's behavior over time. It aids in accountability and can be instrumental in troubleshooting when unexpected behavior arises after a change.

    • Correlating Changes with Metrics: Engineers and product owners often need to correlate feature flag changes with production application metrics. This correlation helps them understand how feature flags affect user behavior, performance, and system health. It's essential for making data-driven decisions about feature rollouts, optimizations, or rollbacks.

  3. Collaboration:

    • Efficient Communication: Open access fosters efficient communication between engineers and the rest of the organization. When it's open by default, everyone can see the feature flagging system and its changes, and have more productive discussions about feature releases, experiments, and their impact on the user experience.
  4. Empowering Product Decisions:

    • Product Owner Involvement: Product owners play a critical role in defining feature flags' behavior and rollout strategies based on user needs and business goals. Allowing them to access the feature flagging system empowers them to make real-time decisions about feature releases, rollbacks, or adjustments without depending solely on engineering resources.
  5. Security and Compliance:

    • Security Audits: Users of a feature flag system should be part of corporate access control groups such as SSO. Sometimes, additional controls are necessary, such as feature flag approvals using the four-eyes principle.

Access control and visibility into feature flag changes are essential for security and compliance purposes. It helps track and audit who has made changes to the system, which can be crucial in maintaining data integrity and adhering to regulatory requirements.