Company, don’t waste your programmers time

Introduction

In this post I would like to raise the subject of wasting programmers time which can be easily saved. What’s more, it is said time is money so we can save both! This post is especially for management people (managers, directors, CTOs) but developers should also think about whether they use their potential one hundred percent.

These days it is very hard to hire good-skilled and experienced programmer because there are few of them (comparing the demand on the market) and they cost a lot. So when the company finally manages to hire a programmer, what he can do to use this valuable resource effectively for the benefit of both sides (win-win rule)?

1. Provide him with the right equipment

There is nothing more annoying than a situation where you can’t honestly carry out your duties not because of you. I will mention only a few examples:
– slow, unstable or even not working internet connection.
– not working, not efficient computer.
– small, old, low resolution monitor.
– broken accessories like mouse, keyboard.

Nowadays, IT equipment compared to people’s earnings is very, very cheap. So one of the best thing company can do is investing in high performance hardware. Programmers need this, especially today when we need a lot of applications which have high requirements (not to mention all containerization and virtualization). I think high performance computer with at least 16GB RAM, 256-500GB SSD, i7 CPU and two FULL HD monitors should be a standard hardware for programmer. Trust me, this investment will return very quickly.

2. Provide him with the right tools

This is another misunderstanding for me. There are a lot of amazing applications which can boost people productivity, so why people do not use them? From ignorance, lack of money, maybe both?

I will give you an example of the best .NET extension tool – Resharper. This is plugin for Visual Studio which makes programming easier and more automatic in some cases. In my opinion it can save from 10% to 20% percent of programming time. At the time when I am writing this post it costs 299 euro (lifetime subscription without upgrades). You know the rate for the programmer’s hour so calculation of ROI I will left up to you. 😉

3. Provide him with the right environment

Does your work environment look like this?
The Ford assembly line in 1913. Source.

Work can be divided into two types: algorithmic and heuristic. An algorithmic work is one that is governed by procedures, schemes, standards and repeatability. You know what you need to do, how and with what. For example: work on the assembly line or the work of a cashier in a supermarket is just algorithmic. At the other end of the spectrum there is a heuristic work, one during which there is no clearly defined path, only you have to experiment, demonstrate your imagination and creativity to come up with a solution to a problem.

It’s not hard to guess what type of work is programming. So why companies try to put their employees in environments in which they are ineffective, for example big open spaces? I think something have gone wrong recently. They want to save on space but this is only illusory saving. People who mainly use their mind during their work need:
– quiet.
– peace.
– enough space at the desk.
– daylight.
– own place.
– coffee machine. 😉

If they don’t have the conditions I mentioned above, they will have a problem with concentration, creativity and effectiveness. Summarizing they will be less productive so work will take them a lot more time.

4. Create a development process

Every programmer should know:
– what are his tasks and what are the priorities.
– for what he is responsible, accountable, what should he consult and what to inform. See RACI matrix.
– what he can do and what can not.
– the Big Picture of current project.

Without well-defined process developers will not know these things (certainly not everything). None of the them should wonder what to do now, who to assign the task to or who to consult. It should be defined clear and understandable workflow.

On the other hand, development process should be automated as much as possible. From the management perspective, you should use project management software and try to eliminate ineffective communication channels like emails. For technical reasons, you should use continuous integration/deployment/delivery practices because machines are much better in repetitive tasks (and they cost less as I mentioned earlier), while people should focus on creative and difficult to automate tasks.

5. Organize only useful meetings

A lot of time can be lost at meetings. Meetings are usually too long, they have too many participants and there are often off-topics that are not related to our work. I am not suggesting abandoning meetings now but organizing them in a thoughtful way, i.e. meeting should:
– have a reason.
– be as short as possible.
– have earlier prepared agenda.
– only have interested participants who will give value to this meeting.
– start and end on time.

So remember, one useless half-hour meeting per day with 4 participants and on Thursday whole man-day is lost. Think about it the next time you organize a meeting.

6. Let the programmer to rest

The one of the famous personal development coach, Stephen Covey, described in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People the formula for effectiveness:

Effectiveness lies in the balance – what I call the P/PC Balance. P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs. PC stands for production capability, the ability or asset that produces the golden eggs.

From this quote follows: you can produce more either by work more or work better/smarter but you have to keep balance. If person is tired because of constant overtimes his production capability (PC) will be very low as well as his efficiency. So it is better in this situation let him to rest to charge the batteries.

7. Give him opportunity to grow

We can constantly improve our production capability through learning and training. But when programmer can do it? Does it always have to be time out of work?

I think it should not be like this. This industry is growing so fast that if programmer want to be up to date he should train himself AND his efforts should be supported by his company. Supporting can be in different ways: sending to courses, buying books, organizing workshops, giving time to research and develop new things. It should be something, I think it is fair for both parties.

Summary

In conclusion, if you, company, don’t want to waste your programmer’s time at all, you must provide him with good hardware and tools, create appropriate supporting environment and development process and you must take care of his development and rest. Are there a lot of requirements? Of course! 🙂 But you do not have to do it right away, you can do it gradually. This is an investment but changes will be noticed quickly.

Start today, not tomorrow.