CFO’s: Do you bear criminal negligence in not updating your developer workstations?

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Strongback Consulting
Why is your company dragging its feet to update the corporate desktops or laptops? If you are a CFO, or CIO, you are not getting the most out of your application developers, software engineers, and systems administrators. In fact, you’re paying your staff to watch progress bars. You are also more likely to lose the really good employees because of it. You are wasting money. And if you are a CFO, you are guilty of neglect, shirking your fiduciary responsibility to your shareholders, owners, and/or board of directors.

The first thing to know about provisioning hardware is that it is sheer idiocy to give developers the same laptops/desktops you give your sales/marketing folks. It is the failure to give them enough power to do their jobs. It is the CFO’s fiduciary responsibility to seek maximum productivity out of their developers. 

Allow me to explain further, The cost of a well provisioned desktop, including dual monitors, can be under $2,000 (actually under $1500 with a good volume purchasing discount). Compare this to the total cost of ownership including IT service maintenance and software licenses which can be up to $9,900 per year according to a study done by Gartner. As you can see, the cost of equipment, when compared over a 3 year depreciation cycle is only fraction of the total cost of ownership. 

Other costs to consider, is the average turnover cost. In the United States the average annual corporate turnover rate is 13%. That is across all industries. In specific job categories (such as call centers), the rate is slightly higher. A company will spend up to 20% of a person’s salary on hiring fees just to get them in the door. This means that, for a software engineer, the amount of time the employee stays with you will be short lived. This is all the more reason to maximize the productivity of the software engineer while he or she is on staff at your organization!

This is what your developers should have, and why.

1) A quad core processor CPU
Developers do much more than just read email. They will typically have 5-20 applications open at a time. Each of those applications requires at least one CPU processor core to run. The more applications you have running, the  more competition for those processors. A quad core Intel i7 has four cores, and with hyperthreading technology, and run a total of 8 processor threads (2 threads per core). This is four times the number of threads that the older dual core processors offered. This means less progress bars. It means more lines of code from your developers.

2) 64bit OS, Windows 7/8, or MAC OSX (or Linux Desktop)
If you are on Windows XP, your company is at risk from technology, security, and financial factors. Your competitors are eating your lunch. Microsoft no longer offers support for Windows XP. No software vendor is writing new applications for the platform. It is a DEAD platform. Your IT strategy should be leading you in a way the becomes near operating system neutral. Email clients now exist for all three platforms listed above, as well as office suites. Everything else should be, or is likely to be running in a modern web browser. 

3) External, larger monitor
Your developers likely are working in multiple applications. They need multiple apps open at the same time, and in some cases, need to reference data in one app to code into another. There are several studies that show productivity increases with a second monitor. 

These recommendations above are by no means complete, but are certainly the highest priority items most software engineers would need. Other nice-to-haves include a solid state drive, more memory (16GB), faster ports (Thunderbolt, USB3.0, eSata, DisplayPort, etc). Get the real needs from your team.

As a consultant, I’ve seen more than my share of developer desktops that were underpowered, and as a result, the developer was downright discouraged, and cynical about the importance they served the organization. It is very frustrating to have a company purchase new development tools (and spend thousands per desktop in doing so), and put it on crappy hardware. Often times it will perform so poorly that the software will go unused. Then the consultant gets blamed for selling shelfware. 

So… stop reading, and go get a pulse on your developers. See if they have what they need. If you see them “waiting” for progress bars, on tiny little monitors, then its time for a visit from your hardware vendor.

Disclaimer: Strongback Consulting does NOT sell hardware (software, yes). We recommend developing a positive relationship with a quality vendor who can tailor a solution to your company, and your developer’s needs, and there are plenty of vendors willing to do just that. Good luck!

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