Shelfware, Deadlines, Trials and the Pursuit of Better Coding – Part 2


My first blog on this topic (read it here), where a CIO wanted the team to use better tooling but received pushback,  generated some very spirited discussion.   Of course, what some people posted in public forums pales by comparison to some of the emails I received, but that’s a story for another day… Obviously there are developers who genuinely care and who want to upgrade their skills.  This I have always known and consider myself one of them.

This genesis is borne out of discussions I have had with some developers who have sat in an entire track of RDi training sessions. Upon conclusion they will come up to me and say, “Well, this is all great but my company won’t pay for the product.  That’s why we are still using the free version.”   And by that, of course, they’re referring to Websphere Development Studio Client, aka WDSC. The irony here is that I’m being told this at a conference;  the same place people are being sent to upgrade their skills!

WDSC – This, in my opinion, is a product that had it’s time, if it ever did, many years ago. It performed, to be kind, like a dog. In addition, it only validated RPG up to V5R4 – even worse than SEU! Today it is completely unsupported, as it should be (as is, BTW, V5R4 itself, along with 6.1 and 7.1).   Using WDSC means there is no possibility of code that is being maintained bearing any semblance to modern day RPG.  As for the being free part, as I understand it, it was never really ‘free’ at all. It was simply bundled into other licensed products, whereas today everything is a la carte.

Company not wanting to invest – The only one scenario I can possibly envision where this might occur is where there is a large number of developers and concern exists that the investment will fall flat.  Something like that shelfware thing… But, even in these situations, where an individual developer exhibits genuine initiative and wants to better both themselves and the company vis-à-vis increased productivity, this is a worthwhile investment.

Getting it done – If you’re a serious developer who wants to use modern tooling and keep hitting walls, here are some suggestions:

  • Download the trial version. It is the full featured product, not some dumbed down trial.  The only thing missing is a permanent license.  Use it for the entire trial period.  By the end you should have more than enough “ammunition” to demonstrate the ROI.  The price, incidentally, is a small fraction of your salary.  Yet productivity gains of 20, 30, even 40 or 50 percent are completely realistic and attainable.
  • As “radical” as this might sound, purchase the product yourself. You and you alone own your career.  Or negotiate a deal where your company will reimburse you over a certain period of months of continued use.

Full disclosure and summary – This blog took a lot of effort on my part to write since I don’t support the notion of suppressing appropriate tooling and modernization, particularly to those who wish to fully engage.  I believe as a manager that if someone seeks to improve their skills and makes a genuine effort then they should have full management support.  But, there also needs to be a legitimate ROI to the enterprise.   Even with a developer who is approaching retirement, having modern tools will still provide more productivity than ever before.   Of course, there is always the argument that if a developer is that close to retirement, perhaps a better use of their time is doing a “brain-dump” for the future staff.  That is how continuity is put in place and fire drills are (hopefully) prevented.

Finally, I tried really, really, really hard to see this issue through a developer’s eyes.  If you are working at a company that won’t support using new tools, then YOU need to advocate for yourself. For a company to dismiss the value of IT assets is a dim view indeed.  Having developers build and maintain huge complex systems and insisting they use only hammers and screwdrivers is a fool’s game.

I welcome your comments.