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 Post subject: Developer Accountability
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:19 pm 
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Typically I pay developers hourly. Sometimes I get one that double bills, that's pretty easy to spot so I just get rid of them.

One of my clients wants to setup an in-house development team. He wants them to work 9 to 5 so he can make sure they are working for the hours they are paid.

I told him this won't really work because developers do their best work on their own schedule. That's one reason at least.

Anyway, what are some best practices for an employer to ensure they are getting what they are paying for, without a rigid schedule?

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Benjamin wrote:
Anyway, what are some best practices for an employer to ensure they are getting what they are paying for, without a rigid schedule?

I think there are two questions here:

Does the initial estimate of programmer/hours required match how long the project actually took? This may depend on the arrangement. If it is fixed bid then the developer is taking on some risk that it will go over budget, while the client get the security of a capped cost. If it is time and materials then it is a question of how the time estimates are made are calculated. I think the key to you question is that you and the client agree on how the estimate are arrived at.

Does they feel like the completed product they got was worth the money? Obviously price gouging is in appropriate -- especially on small or inexperienced clients. That said, charging an amount that the client is happy to pay for the result seem acceptable. There are certainly projects where developers have to complete the work at a lower hourly rate.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:56 pm 
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Well this is for employees he wants to hire. He wants to make sure they are working all the hours they are assigned, e.g. they actually worked 40 hours in a particular week.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:32 pm 
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If I can just add a couple of points here, it would be a good idea for the client if they have regular weekly catch-up meetings with their developers to gauge progress right from the start of the project - being able to demonstrate what they've done in that particular week in a practical way increases the likelihood of them actually doing and achieving something, and the team gets "buy-in" in on every aspect of the project. If the code isn't ready, let the developers know that's fine - just demonstrate what they've got and point out what's missing. The important thing is to keep it informal and productive i.e. minimal preparation and no "where the hell is that search function you said would be ready?" attitude.

There's no real way to guarantee that the client's developers will be working a 40 hour week - yes, they may be sitting in an office starting at a screen for those 40 hours, but are they being productive? Personally, I find keeping a development log and just recording a start/end time for that particular activity is fairly quick and easy to do and is far less onerous than having to account for every 15 minutes of the working day. If I had a manager standing behind me, asking what I was doing every 5 minutes and telling me which buttons to press, that would be the end of that job for me.

Lastly, isn't it results that count? What happened to "working smarter, not harder"? :) I know there's always the potential for people to abuse the system, but that tends to happen when the respect has gone - which is almost always down to poor communication between the two parties or some other kind of grievance that arose at an early stage in the relationship.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:43 pm 
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Benjamin wrote:
Well this is for employees he wants to hire. He wants to make sure they are working all the hours they are assigned, e.g. they actually worked 40 hours in a particular week.

Well, I think if he doesn't know how to manage software development then hiring programmers 9-5 might not be a bad idea.

Does he know that Agile has shown that programmers are really only effective producing code for around 6 hours a day. The other hours programmers spend per day (often more that 2 more hours) are important to making those 6 hours actually effective. That's why some team/pair programming produces better outcomes. It structures the non-coding time. I certainly wouldn't budget for 8 hours of coding a day, but he will. So he is guaranteed to be unhappy not getting 40 hours/week of coding and he is going to get worse outcomes forcing it. Ah well...

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:03 am 
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Ok, so what's the best solution to make him feel comfortable that he isn't paying for time that isn't producing results?

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:07 am 
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Ultimately he needs to put a budget amount on each deliverable. From that he can start to get a sense of actual productivity. But I think he will have to prove it to himself ... but you can say that to him in another way.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:12 am 
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That's a tough one. The software is 90% complete, but was developed by an outsourcing firm so there's major components that need to be refactored-reengineered. He doesn't know how long certain things take. There needs to be a certain level of trust here. I'm just trying to get him setup with policies and procedures that ensure quality and give him peace of mind.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:17 am 
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Has he done any software development management before? Or was he just product managing the ousourced work? I think I would recommend he bone-up on Agile management. Maybe something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Agile-Project-Man ... 073561993X

Either he needs to jump with both feet, or hire someone like you do manage development. Holding programmers feet to the fire 9-5 is a pretty bleak approach. But if he and the programmers are all neophytes then it's not the worst plan. If they are more skilled then it sounds bad.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:20 am 
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He's the owner/investor with minimal software development/management experience, although he does have management experience in other areas. I'll check out the book. I'm thinking probably he should just have everyone log hours and cross reference time spent with deliverables maybe?

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:26 am 
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Benjamin wrote:
He's the owner/investor with minimal software development/management experience, although he does have management experience in other areas. I'll check out the book.
I haven't read it, but it is highly rated and by the SCRUM guy.
Benjamin wrote:
I'm thinking probably he should just have everyone log hours and cross reference time spent with deliverables maybe?
Yeah, but that just sounds bleak too. He needs to understand that if he creates an environment where programmers enjoy what they are doing -- and the results -- they will work their a$$ off for him. We programmers are pretty obsessed folks. That's the counter-intuitive truth to software development (and management in general). That's why something like Agile/SCRUM might work for him if he buys in ... and gets buy-in from his programmers.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:29 am 
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Yeah that's an issue we encountered, where the policies he intended to drive/monitor production were having a negative impact. Let me know if you think of anything else, I'll draft up a plan for him based on the comments here.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:28 am 
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This is mini laboratory for doing software development right. I think the most important things to instill are: group development, no individual ownership of parts of the code, code reviews and even some pair programming, unit testing, doing real design work in those 2 of 6 hours a day spent not coding.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:36 pm 
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It's possible that you don't have a productivity problem at all. Can you extract some per-person metrics from your VCS? Just to get a gauge? It's complicated because it may work for requirement changes or tweaks, but it might be a starting point before having to make everyone track their hours, which they would probably fudge some anyway.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 6:49 pm 
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Eric! wrote:
Can you extract some per-person metrics from your VCS?
The problem is that there is no team yet I think. Ben is being asked about bringing development in-house by a client. But those kinds of metrics are useful to the team. I'd say share them as group self-evaluation data -- not as external metrics.

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