perspective Technology

The Right Tool

It’s a theme which comes up quite regularly: “the right tool for the right job”. From DIY to software, this mantra manifested literally saves you money. Let alone a bundle of emotional energy which gets exhausted trying to fit round blocks into square holes. I can use a knife as a screwdriver, my cellphone as a delicate hammer and chewing gum as glue. As much as they work, they are not the right tools for the right job.

In software, we tend to think of tools as: inter-alia, compilers, languages, debuggers, IDE’s, SDK’s and drivers. Very rarely do we regard our processes, resources and skills as tools. We define these instead as attributes of a project, team or individual. But attributes are abstract things such as value, determination and enjoyment. Of course, we don’t want to offend any person by referring to them as a tool. But let’s rise above ourselves for a moment here, and ignore the connotations of “tool”. In doing so, we can take advantage of the definition to pursue success with greater enojyment.

The challenge: need to respond to aggressive shifts in the market and stay ahead of competition by releasing features rapidly. The tool: Agile.

The challenge: need to carefully plan out the next n months of development in a mature vertical market. The tool: Waterfall.

The challenge: need to research algorithms and implementations of those algorithms on different platforms. The tool: established computer scientists.

The challenge: need to mentor a team of young programmers within a business application product. The tool: pair-programming.

Instead of dogmatically insisting that the “attributes” of your project: Processes, Resources and SkillSet determine the course of your project, let the real attributes: success, enjoyment and value be a product of your project- but manage those just as pro-actively as any other aspect of the project. And while you course through your project, employ the right tools for the right job at the right time.

And just because a hammer worked really well driving that nail into the wall, it doesn’t mean it’ll do an equally fantastic job at attaching the mirror to the wall.

The irony for me though, is that we all instinctively know this and by some subconscious decision making process, we apply this principle quite well to a point. It’s when we don’t apply this principle though that we end up in a: “Houston, we have a problem”.

I think the art of getting this right, is like anything else: be conscious of what you do and decidely know what makes you successful. Like your code, when it unexpectedly stops working, it’s probably because you are not really sure why it was working to begin with…