web developer & system programmer

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ramblings and thoughts on programming...

programmers are not resources

published: 27-03-2012 / updated: 27-03-2012
posted in: development, programming, projects, rants, tips
by Daniel Molina Wegener

How many times do hear the word resource to refer to some co-worker, or even yourself in your daily routine? A resource strictly is a «source or supply from which benefit is produced». If you are called resource in your daily work, probably you do not have more value for your employer than the server where the web application that you are developing is running. If your employer calls you resource, rather than co-worker or even employee, of course he will use the Spanish Theory to get the maximum benefit from your work.

I think that there are two important elements that are making the project value being much higher than the original value on any software development project, where both the customer and the employer wants to reduce the cost of producing that software. The first one is the amount of changes made on the software piece, and the second one is the amount of bugs introduced in the software piece. Among other stuff which is not being applied on many software projects like change management and impact analysis. Where the impact analysis is reduced to a mere functional feature opinion in most cases and change management is reduced to overtime work hours to meet the project schedule. Also the number of bugs on any software project can be directly associated with the number of changes that suffers that project.

The customer once gets the project budget, usually he does not want to change the budget if it is increasing the project cost, mainly if he is using the Spanish Theory to manage the project. So, management on those cases is reduced to some kind of political speaking skills rather than well measured and driven project, with the leading word «compromise» in most managers speeches and project leaders speeches. But you must be blind to avoid looking at that «compromise» as non-reciprocal one.

Historians long ago formed an abstraction about different theories of value: The Spanish Theory, for one, held that only a fixed amount of value existed on earth, and therefore the path to the accumulation of wealth was to learn to extract it more efficiently from the soil or from people’s backs.

Then there was the English Theory that held that value could be created through ingenuity and technology. So the English had an Industrial Revolution, while the Spanish spun their wheels trying to exploit the land and the Indians in the New World. They moved huge quantities of gold across the ocean, and all they got for their effort was enormous inflation (too much gold money chasing too few usable goods).

The Spanish Theory of Value is alive and well among managers everywhere. You see that whenever they talk about productivity. Productivity ought to mean achieving more in an hour of work, but all too often it has come to mean extracting more for an hour of pay. There is a large difference. The Spanish Theory managers dream of attaining new productivity levels through the simple mechanism of unpaid overtime. They divide whatever work is done in a week by forty hours, not by the eighty or ninety hours that the worker actually put in.

[Tom Demarco, Timothy Lister. «Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition)»]

So, you must think twice when using the word resource to refer to your employees as replaceable mechanical nuts in your money-making-software-production-machine, because someone with experience knows that many of them are not replaceable and they are not mere mechanical nuts to be called resources. Have a look on successful companies — mainly how they treat their employees and they retain their employees — and ask also if the term to refer to them is resource. Every time that I listen the word resource to refer to co-workers, I only see blind people…

one comment to “programmers are not resources”

  1. [...] are looking that payment as money lose, then you can apply the same criteria, they are using the Spanish Theory and they are not appreciating your job. And you can apply the same criteria again if your company [...]

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