Innovate or grow?

It’s been crazy lately. Lots of work and lots of meetings. There has been a steady stream of new work coming in the door. The flow of work makes me uneasy, I’m wondering weather or not I have enough people to get it all done in the timelines the client wants. I guess I should be hiring more programmers; right? That leads me to my next problem. I don’t think I can effectively manage any more people. Currently I have 10 direct reports that I manage day to day, provide feedback for and coach. I would have to compromise my management style in order to manage more people. I also don’t think we can carry any more people from a financial perspective. The only thing I could do was to innovate. We needed to figure out ways of getting more productivity out of the people we had. This doesn’t mean making them work longer hours, it means finding methods and tools that will help them work faster.

We started by looking at different software development technologies like Ruby on Rails, Grails, Drupal, Joomla, PHP etc.. At the time we were developing front ends in Flash and Flex and developing the back end in pure Java. I was interested in simplifying the Java development and enabling the reuse of code. After evaluating the options we landed on Grails. Grails is a Web application RAD framework. It is to Java what Ruby on Rails is to Python. We choose it because it fit perfectly into our Java culture and technology footprint. The team is ecstatic with the shift into a new cutting edge technology. Learning a new platform has boosted morale and improved employee engagement. I expect that this will also have a positive long term effect on turn over.

We’re now working on our second project with Grails and it has improved productivity by at least one third. I’m confident that we will continue to speed up as the developers become more proficient in the language.

Adding 2 or 3 developers to the team would not have given me this kind of return and would have cost a fortune. Our shift to Grails has been a huge success, it has bought me some considerable breathing room, it made everyone happy and it didn’t cost me a cent!


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