Getting the most from your software developers requires you do reduce the time it takes them to begin tasks. That means that clear and concise communication is a must. It helps reduce cognitive spin-up time for each task which makes completing the task easier and more satisfying for them. This, in turn, motivates them to complete more tasks per day and makes their jobs more enjoyable.
Keeping your developers happy is not difficult. It doesn’t take a lot of work either. A few simple steps can keep your developers motivated and productive which directly impacts how quickly they complete tasks for you or your team.
It requires you, as a business owner, to focus the developer’s efforts on what makes them happy and keep the business stuff on the project management side. What business stuff? Things like estimating how long it will take for a task, mocking up screens, and content copy are boring to a developer. Their functional area is not business, it’s the development of software. Let them focus on what they do best, don’t burden them with stuff that’s not their responsibility.
Developers Like to Code
Developers are people too. They have hobbies, interests, families, and friends just like everyone else. Just because you hired a developer to complete some work for your business doesn’t mean they are interested in or even good at doing anything except developing software.
Expecting software developers to participate in business meetings is a prime example of an activity that saps their productivity and drains their desire to work for you. It’s very difficult for them to be effective in a meeting when the only thing they know about the business is what you told them when you hired them (if anything).
Developers Want to Do Their Best
It has been shown in recent studies that programmers who are treated well by their employers, tend to produce much better software. Also, the higher the quality of the software that gets developed, the more likely it is to become an asset for future projects.
The idea of well-treated employees producing high-quality work is not new. Software developers make up a large amount of business owners now days, and they tend to be smart people too. The principle behind treating your developers properly is quite simple actually: make sure they are productive at all costs!
How to Focus Efforts
Coders should be given well defined tasks that are simply worded and easy to understand. Don’t make them decipher what you mean within a task request. Don’t make them go to some other document to read specifications for your request. Don’t ask them to do anything that doesn’t optimize their abilities to write good code. Software development is a job that requires quite a bit of brain power. Software developers are not secretaries. They shouldn’t be treated like one.
No Multitasking Please
Software developers will avoid multitasking as much as possible because it simply does not allow them to focus on any one task long enough to satisfy their cravings for doing something they enjoy. Software developers are goal-oriented people, and their goals are to do great work at all times in any job they take on.
Software developers are always thinking about the code that is in front of them right now. Any task that interrupts this focus is a waste of time. Don’t interrupt them unless you have an emergency that warrants it. What warrants an emergency to a developer is broken code. If it isn’t broken code, then it had better be the case that they are being interrupted to utilize their critical thinking skills. Software developers get no satisfaction from the mindless activities that many managers think they should be doing. Software development is a profession, and like any professional, software developers need to focus on their work to do it well. Software developers don’t get paid to fix the printer or help with troubleshooting new phones. Software developers get paid to write code that creates awesome features and solves tough problems.
A developer’s every activity needs to have value added to it so that they feel they are being effective in helping your company succeed. Developers need time for focused development to create quality software at a sustainable pace. A good manager knows when they need an emergency item done and when they can put off interrupting a developer until tomorrow because there really isn’t a compelling reason that interrupting the developer would produce a result that was satisfactory to both the company and the developer.
Keeping developers focused on the task at hand is essential. Software development can be quite detailed and complex. With all that must be tracked it’s easy for a developer’s head to spin faster than their hands can keep up with. Your goal is to reduce as much of that spin as possible.
Some of the most common factors that cause frustration are task switching, unclear expectations, outages, poor tools, poor design documentation and lack of testing. Let’s look at these in detail.
Having expectations set before development begins is ideal. If you expect something by a certain date or time, tell the developer up front so they can plan their time accordingly. Most of the time you should do this by prioritizing the tasks and asking them to work the highest priority tasks first, but, if you have given them a particularly complex task it’s appropriate to also give them a timeframe for a reference for how much effort you want them to spend in search of a solution to whatever problem you’re facing.
When composing user stories, work items, bugs, or other tasks it can be a huge waste of a developer’s time to have to decipher the meaning behind a poorly worded request. If you write a description and it’s confusing on first read, rewrite it until it makes sense to someone who didn’t author the task.
Outages that frustrate the developer are those that they have no control over. For instance, if the company’s intranet goes down or internet access is disrupted. If developers are getting frustrated by these sorts of outages it is likely they are trying to fix them themselves. This stems from their need to solve problems and their belief that they are the best person alive to do so. This can be frustrating to managers as it means the developer has no real focus on the task they are supposed to be working on.
Poor tools include slow machines, slow networks, minimal memory, or CPU, or really, anything that can be fixed by spending a little bit more money. Developers feel like their time is being wasted when their machine or laptop takes too many seconds to perform a task. Software debugging over a network that takes 30 seconds to transfer 10 megabytes of data is also considered poor tools.
The corporate tool set includes the corporate development environment, source code management, bug tracking system/task list, and any other shared resources provided by the company they work for.
Poor Design Documentation
There can be many categories for poor design documentation including incomplete designs, designs that are illogical, or designs that just haven’t had the required thought put into them to make them clear and understandable.
Design documentation refers to any specifications or design documents that the developer must refer to be able to do his work. Software design documentation can be detailed, but it should provide all the information required to implement the software and it should be able to be consumed by the developer easily.
It is best to minimize the amount of documentation that a developer must either produce or consume. It may be necessary to spend a little extra time making sure the wording within the user stories is easy for the developer to consume. This way, he doesn’t have to work as hard, and it is more than worth it when it produces higher developer productivity throughout the development of your product.
Lack of Testing
You might ask, why a lack of testing frustrates a developer. The answer would be that if they feel they completed a task and then, because of a lack of adequate testing, a bug is found the developer is tasked with fixing that bug. If it’s something simple that should have been caught at the time the code was written it’s frustrating to be pulled away from meaningful work to fix things that should’ve been found before the code was released. If this happens more than a few times it gets to the point where they feel like other members of their team, that they rely on, aren’t doing their parts. This, obviously, leads to frustration.
Developers like things to be neat and organized. They will spend lots of time working on code that is clean, easy to work with and easy to understand by their team members. If the development environment isn’t well thought out or you have requirements for files that are placed in an illogical order it can lead to developer frustration which can result in subpar work being submitted increasing the chances for bugs.
There are many other symptoms of poor workflow which can include: lack of available time for training due to excessive bug fixing, longer than usual story sizes, inability to estimate easily and accurately, and resistance to use the tools provided.
By creating a streamlined and consistent development environment, your developers will be happier and more productive. To get your developers on board with streamlining their workflow: bring them in early on, do your research into the process of efficient workflow and then implement that same standard across all teams. Industry trends can provide best practices for success; however, each project should be assessed independently due to the number of variables involved.