01 Aug 2012

(NOTE: For the non-development folks, CVS and Clearcase are configuration management tools)

Our team is an off-shoot of an older and larger one which has been using CVS for years now. My team only moved to it a few years ago. At the time, I was in a project in a bank where we used Clearcase. Ever since we moved back into the product this last year, we’ve been bombarding management with stinkers about how bad we think CVS is. To their credit, our seniors had been patiently replying with reasons why we cannot migrate.

After months of emailing back and forth, I was invited to a meeting the other day. The other attendees were folks who’d given feedback and the management. We all got a chance to speak for or against migrating from CVS. The concerns at my level (Module Lead - ML) were mostly about how difficult it is to check-in, check-out, review stuff.

When it came to the Project Managers, their concerns were how it would be a bad idea to take on a tool only for one team while the others were using another. This would mean establishing a new support structure, processes, trainings, etc. The person in charge of the entire department, when it was his turn, expressed his concerns about creating a career path for the people who’d take on CM roles.

The conclusion of the meeting was that though we all agreed CVS was perhaps not the ideal tool, we’d only migrate to another if support/maintenance of the tool was made the responsibility of an external team

The entire department agreed to adopt it (with our team as a pilot implementation).Though it would have been ideal if we’d decided to chuck CVS, I was satisfied with the meeting itself. Aspects I’d never considered had been brought out. The last especially was a revelation - what career path could a teammate who only maintained Clearcase aspire for? (CVS is currently maintained by a dedicated team who have their own hierarchy).

You could argue that the emails should have been enough to make me see the other point of view. You’d be right - have to go back and read them and try and understand why I chose not to.

Another example of how perceptions differ across roles is our attitude to processes. How many of you consider processes a deterrent to personal interaction or creativity? I’ve got a few emails in the past by people saying they find processes stifling team interaction. For a team, I’ve always thought of processes as enablers. When the small stuff is documented, more people can do them than if only one person knew how to. So such feedback is difficult to agree with.

I have at times felt that processes are deterrents to creativity. A process does imply (and most times explicitly state) that it is the ‘only’ way to do things. but if that one way was arrived at after many mistakes would you really want to repeat the mistakes?

What is important is to document the ‘why’ of a process as much as the ‘how’. That is the responsibility of the person endorsing/enforcing the process.

But just as the situation above, it would help if everyone concerned, looked at the issue from different perspectives than just their own.