Visual Basic

Commit to Staff

Good software developers are infinitely better than average ones. The only people worth having on the team are those who are very good and those who are very eager to learn. You can tell people who are good at their jobs a mile off. A team of people who are proud of their work is a thousand times better than a team of average people. High-quality teams lead to real team spirit. At TMS, our hiring process includes a strictly monitored 2-hour written Visual Basic examination. We never rely on just rsums, references, and interviews. We firmly believe in small, highly skilled teams.

In Visual Basic teams, there is a danger of everyone "doing it all." The Visual Basic 6 box is deceptively small, but there's an awful lot in there (like Dr. Who's TARDIS). Most Visual Basic programmers become jacks-of-all-trades but, of course, masters of none. We therefore believe in specialists across the teams.

Because of Visual Basic's high productivity, it's possible to reach a productivity saturation point long before achieving competency. "Productive incompetent" programmers are the result. Visual Basic programmers need much better education and training. Most employers seem to think that sticking their mainframe programmers in a five-day introductory course is enough. Wrong, wrong, wrong. So many times, we've seen people with inadequate training-for example, with no understanding of the workings of the Microsoft Windows operating system-building mission-critical Visual Basic applications. They assume that they are working in a protected environment with "limitless" resources, just as in the mainframe world. Visual Basic programmers should have a thorough understanding of Windows as well as Visual Basic functionality and syntax. They should also spend at least six months working alongside an experienced Windows/Visual Basic mentor before being let anywhere near an important development project.

Go for the best

Visual Basic 6 distributed development requires that developers have a broad range of technical skills and understanding that covers front-end, middleware, and back-end technologies. Products such as Visual Basic are getting bigger and more sophisticated. Rapid development means shorter analysis, design, and coding stages. Effective staff utilization dictates that the same staff are used across all stages. The implication is that higher-caliber, better-trained, and better-paid staff are needed. Visual Basic 6 distributed development requires stronger analysis because of the more competitive business environment. Design, testing, deployment, and support skills need to be stronger because of the more complex technical environment.

Project managers must be technically competent and have strong business and interpersonal skills. Their management of the users and their own teams has grown more difficult. With the breadth of skills required and the pace of technical change, it is unlikely that team members will have a full set of the required skills. Working together to solve problems, to experiment, to learn, and to cover skill gaps is essential to Visual Basic 6 distributed development. Project managers must build learning time into the schedules. If overall development costs are not to rise, greater productivity must be achieved. The quality of project management is the key issue in building teams and commitment. A project manager must be a good team builder and team leader.

Some of us have had the rare experience of working in highly cohesive, effective, productive, supportive, and fun teams. From a management perspective, productivity and effectiveness are the only important factors. But these two factors don't come without the others; in fact, they are a result of having developed a supportive, cohesive, and fun environment. Unfortunately, such teams often break down after a short period. Few managers have the skills or support to build and maintain such teams. The best organizations have human resources departments that provide management training and facilitate team development. Some managers treat team building with cynicism. They are fools who are making their own jobs much harder.

Many organizations build teams successfully and then destroy them. Staff must be motivated by training, advancement, recognition, involvement, and money. They must not be demotivated by lack of respect, unreasonable pressure, long hours, or lack of consultation on matters that affect them.

In the case study, we recommended a resource pool-but beware. You can have a resource pool of laptop computers, cars, overhead projectors, or any inanimate objects. You can manipulate them with little thought. People deserve better. They are not things to be moved about on a whim. The resource-pool concept needs to be handled carefully. A good team is more important, more productive, and more effective than the best methods, the best tools, or the best organizational structure. The priority must be on building and maintaining a good team. This investment provides the greatest payoff.

If you commit to staff, they are more likely to commit to you. And successful Visual Basic 6 distributed development requires high levels of commitment from staff. They need to spend their own time researching their tools, and they need to be encouraged to do so. Their commitment must be reciprocated in terms of salary, holidays, working hours, personal development, training, respect, and fun. Good staff can command high contract rates and are mobile. Reward them or lose them. The value of providing appropriate rewards outweighs the costs of poor productivity and poor quality. Refer to Chapter 17 for more thorough discussion on staff hiring and retention.

Project teams using Visual Basic for distributed development projects are often weak in their server-side skills. This is particularly serious where this extends to the project management and designers. Project managers might not schedule the time or resources to carry out physical design or be aware of the risks inherent in their project. It is essential for successful completion of any project that a realistic view of the skills required and those possessed be taken.