Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Artful Tool Use

A work acquaintance once posited “if we have the stupid people develop it, then it will be easier to maintain. If the smart people develop it then only the smart people will be able to maintain it.”

One of the classic management dilemmas remains how to select the creative workforce for a long-term project (or in software a neverending project) such that the system will not only stay maintainable but that the developers can accomplish the project in a subtle and efficient manner. It’s rather a deep question.

Your philosophy towards tool use and the Development Lifecycle may precipitate how you answer this question correctly in your surroundings. Imagine a chart with company strategy on one axis and expected system longevity on the other axis. Then we should ideally expect the mix of tool use and the level of employee expertise to look something like this:

Legend: HT = high tool, ME = medium expertise

At first glance this chart makes little sense: the ranges of expertise and tool use jump about and seem to lack any expected sort of gradient. This is attributable to the two dominions for when tools make a good bet: first when getting a system out fast has high strategic value, and secondly when time or money are likely to constrain your resources.

Similarly two situations require a higher level of expertise: when a system has a very specific focused utility and when the company needs the software to survive an expected future path of high business volatility.

Choose your tools and your creative workforce to match your company’s strategic plan. This is a key goal of I.T. strategy alignment and helps to avoid the dreaded swamp monster of impedance mismatch.