Software Craftsman Project Priority Survey

Answers to a question of project priorities from the upcoming book “Apprenticeship Patterns”.

apprenticeship-patters-coverThere is an upcoming and very promising book title written by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye called “Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance For The Aspiring Software Craftsman”.  It will cover all the basic rules you’ll need to become a Software Craftsman. This is a rather new term to describe professional software developers, eventually leading to the Software Craftsmanship Manifesto. The Manifesto itself reads like an addition to the Agile Manifesto:

As aspiring Software Craftsmen we are raising the bar of professional software development by practicing it and helping others learn the craft. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Not only working software, but also well-crafted software
  • Not only responding to change, but also steadily adding value
  • Not only individuals and interactions, but also a community of professionals
  • Not only customer collaboration,but also productive partnerships

That is, in pursuit of the items on the left we have found the items on the right to be indispensable.

© 2009, the undersigned. this statement may be freely copied in any form, but only in its entirety through this notice.

A very good question

When i read the blog of “Apprenticeship Patterns“, i noticed a very good question about project priorities:

Rank the following 3 project attributes in order of importance and explain why.

  • Test Coverage
  • Timely Delivery
  • Code Quality

This question really got me hooked, because there is no single valid answer, only personal statements about values.

An informal survey

I’m in the lucky position of meeting a lot of senior developers and a great number of software engineering students. So I instantly decided to perform a survey on this question and watch out for emerging answer patterns.

I gave each project attribute an unique letter, C for “Test Coverage”, D for “Timely Delivery” and Q for “Code Quality”. There are six possible answers, here are their rates in the survey (when 58 persons gave their answers):stats-all1

  • CDQ: 7 percent
  • CQD: 9 percent
  • DCQ: 5 percent
  • DQC: 7 percent
  • QCD: 41 percent
  • QDC: 31 percent

The vast majority of developers stated Code Quality as their highest goal. This isn’t very surprising to me, as most developers take pride in writing high quality code.

Comparing the answers

But what about the answers of only senior developers? Lets have a look at the numbers without student answers:stats-senior1

  • CDQ: 7 percent
  • CQD: 14 percent
  • DCQ: 7 percent
  • DQC: 14 percent
  • QCD: 21 percent
  • QDC: 36 percent

The big pattern still applies: Code Quality first. It’s amazing to see the other attributes gaining importance, though. To me, that’s a sign that code-centric thinking is one pattern of apprenticeship.

What’s not in the numbers

When i held the survey, the relevant group of people was gathered together, so a discussion of the results arose every time.  But the discussions followed different patterns:

  • The teams (of senior developers) gave very distinct answers while working on the same project. The answers were driven by personal conviction rather than project necessities.
  • The courses (of students) gave more similar answers while having a wide variety of backgrounds. The answers were mostly explained with current project necessities (like security-critical systems as reason for Test Coverage being most important).

When I have to compare the two groups, I tend to say that younger developers are more driven by extrinsic demands while more experienced developers act on their own internal values.

Our duty as Software Craftsman

In conclusion, I see a duty for experienced developers: to share their experience. Leading a discussion about “Team Values” at your current project is the least you can do. Helping others to develop their own set of internal values, even if it isn’t yours, seems crucial to me.

The upcoming “Apprenticeship Patterns” book and the brand new “97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know” are perfect starting points for this.