In Favor of RDD

Often, developers have poked fun at colleagues who choose to use bleeding edge languages/frameworks/whatever saying they are just exercising RDD (Resume Driven Development). The idea being that the item was chosen just to create some meat to fluff their resumes with. Sometimes though, it's not a joke. There are many cases where technologies are chosen to fluff the resume. It is often considered a bad thing, note the first Google hit on the term:

A Different Approach

Let me posit that maybe it's not so bad after all. In fact, it could actually be a benefit to your organization. The trick is to analyze the choice of technology from more than one direction. In books such as Fred Brook's, "The Mythical Man-Month" and Robert Glass', "Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering" studies are pointed out that show the top developers can deliver huge differences in productivity.

To exploit this knowledge, you should be trying to attract the top developers to your organization. They are a bargain considering for a 30% higher salary, you can get between 2-20x productivity.

How do You Attract Top Talent?

The year 2008 is coming to a close, you aren't going to win them over with some sweet Perl gig. These are smart, creative, curious folk. They are going to want to work with interesting technologies. They are going to want the freedom to choose and experiment. Because they are the top performers, they aren't really worried about fluffing the resume. They will want the best solution to the problem.

Also, they have many oportunites available to them.

So, let your staff get a little creative. It's not going to hurt to let them work with new technology. Truth is, if they don't have the drive to want to try new things, you should really consider replacing them. Motivated people cost very little more but, you get a lot more in return for it.

While some might be doing RDD, they are actually helping YOU to recruit top talent, and saving YOU money.

The Pitfall of Continuing to do it 'The Old Way'

If you let your company's technology go lax, you may find yourself in a hard spot. Do you know how exceptionally hard it is to find a good COBOL programmer these days? IBM is will offer consultants to port your old COBOL but, you don't want to even think about how much it's going to cost.

I once worked on a contract for the DoD. They had (and continue to have) some really old systems that were developed in COBOL around 30 years ago. These systems are impossible to maintain by anyone other than the people who wrote them. They often hired people after they retired as contractors to maintain their old systems.

The only time a system would get replaced was when the original developer died. That's when the high priced consultants were brought in to re-write from scratch. Do you really want a critical part of your business completely dependent on one person? If you don't keep your business moving forward, this is exactly what can happen.

Conclusion

Resume Driven Development is not necessarily a good or bad thing. Just, before getting cynical about it, consider that good things may be reaped in return. Try to approach it from more than one view point. Besides being more attractive for top talent, the freedom could motivate your existing staff to become top performers.

In the end, if developers are not concerned with their own careers, it's not likely they'll be concered with your business.

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by: Paul E Davis
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