Give your programmers professional tools

Professionals tend to have expensive tools that enable them to do their job as efficiently as possible. Even when cheaper, more commonly used tools exist, professionals often opt for higher-end ones that are faster, stronger, more durable, or more advanced. This is why the Canon Rebel — which is a great camera — isn’t the model in the hands of most professional photographers, who are more apt to go with a professional camera that costs several times as much. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, it makes a lot of sense and is part of the reason why tools of all kinds are available in a wide array of quality levels and price ranges.

Case in point, I have an electric drill and a few DIY tools at home. I don’t think I’ve spent more than $250 on all them combined over the years. However, my father-in-law, who runs his own decking and renovation company, likely spent more than that on his drill alone. That’s perfectly normal; he makes his living with his tools, whereas I simply enjoy occasionally fixing a few things around the house.

One field where pros are often not using the very tools that are designed with them in mind, is software development. I’m not just talking about the importance of having a fast laptop (important as that is). As a professional in the software world, my tools are also composed of a chair, desk, monitor, keyboard, mouse, software, bookshelf (virtual and physical), education, internet connection, drawing board, and office space, amongst others.

Most companies cheap out on many of these components, thus hindering the productivity and wellbeing of their developers. Moves such as this are done under the misguided assumption that they will save the company money, though they rarely do in the long run. A developer’s time is far more expensive than the cost of an SSD hard drive, a 30″ monitor, and a high-quality ergonomic chair. The use of poor quality tools that hinder one’s ability to be as productive as possible ultimately end up costing the company more than it is saving by cheaping out on lower quality electronics, office equipment, and developer related tools.

Perhaps what companies fail to grasp is that developer happiness is something you can rarely buy with cash alone. A few high-quality, professional level tools and perks can go a tremendous distance when it comes to creating a motivated employee. Ultimately, “Happiness Oriented Development” (HOD) will be a competitive advantage and the most important software engineering practice for your company.

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