Undecided words and a look at SPACE

Picture of a clock with money notes next to it

Vacillate: To waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.

One of our sales team proposed this as the word of the week. It is an accurate description of the state of many of our clients with regards to training.

The objection to action

If I ask why you are vacillating about training, you'll probably give one of these answers:

  • We don't have time.
  • We don't have money.

But that's half an answer. Because time or money is the reason only if the cost or time will exceed the benefit. So what is the benefit?

Where's the ROI?

The formula to calculate ROI (return on investment) on training is simple — in theory. In practice, it is difficult to measure, especially for developers.

That's because it is almost impossible to measure programmer productivity. For every metric proposed, there is a valid counter-argument. Much depends on the team, the type of software, the goals of the organisation. I loved this comment from an article on nortal.com:

If there is a holy grail (or white whale) of the technology industry, especially from a management standpoint, it’s the measurement of developer productivity.

Researchers from GitHub, University of Victoria and Microsoft have proposed a new way to define, measure and predict developer productivity. SPACE is a multi-dimensional approach that uses five dimensions:

  • Satisfaction and well-being
  • Performance
  • Activity
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Efficiency and flow

You can improve what you can't measure

There are many things we can't accurately measure. Like happiness or pain. But that doesn't mean those things are not real, or that we can't improve them.

Training has well-recognised benefits, even if we can't measure them in financial terms:

  • Training improves productivity and efficiency.
  • Training improves morale and retention rates.
  • Training improves creativity and problem-solving skills.

The S in SPACE

According to SPACE, developer satisfaction and well-being can help us understand productivity and even predict it.

Good developers never stop learning. This is one of the promises in Robert Martin's "Programmer's Oath". (Martin is one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto). It is a principle of the ACM/IEEE-CS Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice.

Most developers know this. When you invest in their learning, you recognise their value. When you make it easy for them to learn, you contribute to their well-being. So when you cut their training budget ... well, you can work it out for yourself.

I'd love to hear your comments on this. Please share your thoughts - and any suggested words.

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