Hit the Ground Running
by Pat Craig
From the Fall 1994 issue of the Complexity Management Chronicles
Software project managers often have an overly optimistic view about how quickly they
can add productive testers to a project. Time and again we are amazed at how slowly our
clients equip new staff with even the most basic tools and equipment needed to be
productive. Based on our observations, it takes six weeks to set up a new person. Apart
from management's desire to complete testing as soon as possible and get the product
shipped, labor costs are usually one of the largest items in the budget. With the race to
produce new software quickly and cheaply, haphazard methods for bringing new staff up to
speed are increasingly unacceptable.
We have observed at several clients that no one takes responsibility for getting new
people on board. All too often the new person is left to fend for themselves, dealing with
this network administrator, that PC guru, another person for the mainframe, and yet
another for building access. We believe centralizing the responsibility for new staff will
alleviate these problems.
Consider appointing a technical person to be responsible to ensure that all hardware
and software infrastructure for both PC and mainframe is in place for new people before
they start. Your designated representative (D.R.) would keep a checklist of all the steps
needed to get a new person on-board. They need not do all the tasks themselves but would
be responsible to coordinate these activities. Management would reward the D.R. based on
the time it takes them to equip new staff with required infrastructure.
Whether you decide to centralize the responsibility or not, here are nine things you
can provide to make the next staff addition go smoothly:
1.Clear specifications of the work to be performed. Clear specifications are required
to determine hardware and software needs. In addition, the more specific the description
of the work to be performed, the better.
2.Space to work. Have a work area prepared for the new tester, preferably a well
3.A fully loaded, powerful PC. Provide new staff with a PC comparable in speed and
power to everyone else's. Ensure that all software the new person needs is loaded before
4.A second PC. Provide a second PC to anyone testing PC products. This is common
practice at large PC development organizations. Testers run tests on one PC and do their
other work (writing test plans, analyzing results) on the other. The second PC does not
have to be the most up to date, it could even be a 486. If you cannot provide a second PC,
let testers borrow PCs by forbidding the locking of PC's. (Locking PC's does not make much
sense. Organizations are already password protected.)
5.File accesses. At many client sites, the security department has established strict
procedures to which all managers or new staff must conform. In a best case situation the
security department would serve the hiring manager, not the other way around. In any case,
an experienced technical person should arrange to get appropriate file accesses ahead of
6.Up to date documentation. Give your staff only the most up to date documentation. It
is a tremendous waste of time to do anything else.
7.Building Access. Provide new staff with key access to the building so that they can
get to work early or stay late. At one of our best clients, it only takes one day to get
an access card to new staff.
8.A librarian. If the development staff is larger than twenty, someone in the group
should be appointed the official librarian. This person would be familiar with all the
various avenues to gain information: IBM manuals, the best technical bookstores in the
area, courses, etc.. When a developer or tester is working with something totally new, the
librarian would help them gain information about the subject, fast.
9.A buddy. Assign an experienced person to work with new staff. Choose the official
buddy with care. Find someone who is motivated to take on this additional responsibility
and who will make the time to fully answer any questions. An official buddy/mentor can
provide all sorts of informal, yet vital, information.
We at Complexity Management are especially concerned with software development
productivity. Hence, we decided to write this newsletter. Quality without productivity
neglects the bottom line. Productivity without quality is not true productivity because
fixing bugs after the product has shipped is so costly. This checklist should help you get
your new staff in a position to hit the ground running.
©Complexity Management 1994
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