Management of software development during containment



With only a proportion of developers classified as key workers, the majority of programmers will have been forced to work remotely, often in solitude. Lack of face-to-face meetings can undermine team morale and some team members can become withdrawn and more isolated.

The pressure to develop new software will continue to increase, but for team leaders and senior IT decision-makers, doing more work – often on less budget – must be balanced with software developers working from home. can juggle work well. with babysitting duties, caring for sick parents and home schooling.

Research from cloud communications platform Twilio reveals that almost all (90%) CTOs and key IT decision-makers in UK companies see the role of software developers as important to be competitive in their industry during the pandemic .

According to the study, based on a Vanson Bourne survey of 400 IT decision makers in January 2021, it is widely believed that technology can be used strategically to rebuild and reconfigure businesses as they chart a course through the world. coronavirus crisis. This puts software development skills at the forefront of business development, creating new business applications and reworking existing processes encoded in software to adapt them to rapid changes in public policy.

From a programmer’s productivity standpoint, what really matters in programming circles is the amount of working code that has been developed, tested, secured, managed, deployed, maintained, and pushed into live production. Have “code commissions” increased or decreased? Have developers been equally productive communicating through messaging systems and video collaboration platforms? Have the periods of quarantine, confinement and self-isolation really allowed for more work to be done?

Code productivity metrics

GitHub Octovers Productivity Report 2020 illustrates how the productivity of software development during the pandemic is either in line with baseline or increased. The report includes the activities of more than 35,000 organizations spanning the 12 months through September 2020. A pre-pandemic baseline can be established and changes observed in the first six months of the movement towards widespread homeworking.

“In March 2020, there was a sharp decrease in the number of code commits. While this metric is far from perfect, it gives a good overview of developer productivity, ”says Darren Broemmer, Developer Evangelist at DevGraph. “Organizations were looking to adapt to remote working conditions first. Engineers made the change and awareness set in that this would be the new standard. “

Speaking about his own experiences, Broemmer says he was very particular about his workspace. This is generally true for many full time software developers.

“Who can be productive with just one monitor? Many engineers just didn’t have a great home setup. They probably had an office where they could work, but only used it occasionally on a sick day or while waiting for a delivery, ”he says. “I quickly realized that a standing desk for my home office was an absolute necessity. It didn’t matter that my employer company at the time did not reimburse me, it had to be done. I just couldn’t sit still all day.

Get the right workflow

One of the contributors to the Computer Weekly Developer Network (CWDN) is Will Blew, a software engineering manager for Linode, which provides hosting and cloud infrastructure tools. Since he started working remotely every day, he says the most common challenge is that some software development workflows don’t perform well in a remote environment. This, he says, can be overwhelming and lead to loss of productivity, but it should also be an opportunity to consider how stress points can be alleviated.

“One thing that I have changed since moving to working entirely remotely is asking questions about things related to working remotely during my regular one-on-one talks with the team. It is important that all of my team have the necessary elements to do the job in this new way.

Go take a breath, Linode

“One thing I’ve changed since moving to fully remote working is asking questions about things related to remote working during my regular one-on-one meetings with the team,” he says. “It’s important that everyone on my team has the necessary elements to do the job in this new way. “

For example, team meetings that previously took place in person are now based on online whiteboards and other collaborative tools. “Almost every time we have used some type of physical tool, we look for an alternative so that we can all collaborate wherever we are in the country.”

Video conferencing tools like Zoom and WebEx have become the preferred method of office workers to interact and collaborate, and they seem to work well with software development teams as well. For a more formal collaboration, tools such as Slack and, increasingly, Teams, are deployed.

Another CWDN contributor, Matt Yonkovit, head of open source strategy at Percona, says it encourages social interaction and takes time for personal conversations. “Using tools like Slack groups allows our team to discuss work and life issues simultaneously,” he says. “We have set up specific groups for people interested in a whole range of subjects, from pets to cooking to sports. We also encourage video chats, with cameras on, for team and product meetings. It doesn’t all have to be on Zoom, but it’s different when you can see and interact with people.

“Using tools like Slack groups allows our team to discuss work and life issues simultaneously. We have set up specific groups for people interested in a whole range of topics, from pets to cooking to sports.

Matt Yonkovit, Percona

Collaboration is different when team members cannot meet physically. In terms of development practices, Yonkovit agrees that it is difficult to stay in touch with the team if you are used to this collaboration and office culture. “Having stand-ups on Slack or Zoom can help, but it’s harder without the water cooler conversations or the whiteboard sessions where people can exchange ideas with each other,” he says. he. “This is especially true when developers have to work with other teams in the business. “

Yonkovit believes that remote teams can be more successful if they are smaller and already cohesive. “Having a close relationship with the infrastructure or database team, or with site reliability engineers and other external groups, is a lot more complicated when you’re growing the team. It can mean that things are missed or taken for granted, ”he says.

Socialize for team consistency

Computer Weekly has heard, anecdotally, that at least some software developers lack the creature comforts that come with a great work environment, like chill out areas, a pool table, coffee machines, and even pizza. free.

For Holly Cummins, CWDN Associate, Global Development Manager for the IBM Garage for Cloud family of products, it’s the daily commute. “I didn’t expect to miss my commute to work,” she says. “The round trip to London gave me space to think about plans and catch up on email and social media. I now need to make time for these things. However, I don’t miss the crowded public transport.

New ways of maintaining team spirit during lockdown are needed. “At first we tried to replicate the Friday social drinks, but it just wasn’t the same on a video call. Friday in disguise was more successful, where people got more creative and crazier than they’d dared to do in the office, ”adds Cummins.

She says a team member’s dog has become a celebrity on some conference calls. “We see Toggle frolicking around the field when we receive calls while our practice director is walking him. Plus, most of us have had those occasions when we have important calls and our kids barge in to tell us something ‘urgent’ – those lighter moments help the team deal with the odd situation. we are in. “

For those who have contributed to the CWDN blog, while online collaboration platforms and video conferencing tools have a role to play, they don’t replace the value of face-to-face meetings.

“The best thing about coming back to the office will be having tea with my colleagues. It’s not even drinking tea, it’s having tea in a large group that I look forward to. I am convinced that we solve the problems to the best of our ability and our creativity by going to and from the kettle ”

Holly Cummins, IBM

Not being able to attend the conferences had both positive and negative effects. “Most of the tools we use, like Slack, WebEx, and Trello, were already part of our work before the pandemic,” says Cummins.

“Our team can now virtually attend or speak at conference sessions anywhere, opening up a whole new world of opportunities for learning and exchanging ideas. But the chance interactions at a conference are just as valuable and we miss them. I tried Spatial, a VR [virtual reality] platform where you can move between groups and conversations at virtual events – it will be interesting to see how this develops.

While it’s entirely possible for developers to install the best hardware and programming environment with multiple monitors and comfortable seating to create the perfect home workspace, Cummins believes the missing ingredient is tea.

“The best thing about coming back to the office will be having tea with my colleagues,” she says. “It’s not even drinking tea, it’s having tea in a large group that I look forward to. I have no doubts that we solve the problems to the best of our ability and our creativity by going to and from the kettle. If a few of us are talking about a problem, sometimes a teammate who just took a walk will find the best solution. Even though we’re talking about something else entirely, getting away from the problem combined with a little exercise has a way of disentangling the issues.



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