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Assessing coders productivity

By markstone ·
I am a manager with an underperforming coder. Or maybe they're not, and my expectations are too high. And that is the problem - do I or don't I have cause for concern?

I won't bore you with other experiences so far, but so I can get feedback from you experienced coders out there (which I am not), here is a recent example.

We need data downloading from a website. This is then put into a SQL table. This part is successful.
The data then needs to be put into a delimited file, in a certain format.
The resulting file is then ftp'd elsewhere in the world for use by another system.

We are at testing stage, so a manually exported file is all we need. Later on we'll automate the process and add a GUI so our internal customer can do the job themselves every week.

We know the structure of the sql tables. We know the structure of the file needed by the receiving system. There are a few differences in heading names, but the data under them are the same. There is one field in each record where incoming text must be changed to something else to suit the final system - but they are always the same equivalents so a translation should be easy.

But it's taking forever to get a converted file out that we can FTP up for testing. I'm talking about 4 weeks now. I've been reassured by the coder that she'll have it done "next week", but our internal customer has pointed out we've said that 3 times now. I'm at the point where I want to pull the plug and outsource the job (we only have the one coder), but I shouldn't have to for something this "simple". Not only would this cost money, but it brings into question the competence of a staff member who I expect to be the "expert" on these matters.

Tell me I'm being unreasonable. As a manager I need to trust the experts I hire to do the things I can't do due to time constraints or simple lack of knowledge. Do I believe what they say, and lower my expectations while fending off our customer? Or am I right to be worried and have a staff member who's somehow in over their head?

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Valiid point, but totally irrelevant

by marketingtutor. In reply to No, you are not.

To my understanding, he wants a procedure that can be reproduced over and over again. A simple program could do that in a matter of seconds, maybe minutes depending on the size of the query's result set.

A search and replace taking multiple hours for each run would be out of the question. I don't think your idea is wrong or not feasible, just that it wouldn't apply in this situation.

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not really irrelevant

by Jaqui In reply to Valiid point, but totally ...

if the file for testing is what is important now.
the later script application it wouldn't be hard to do it either, with perl or bash scripts. It would only be hard and slow if stuck using microsoft systems.

and the two hours is an estimate for changing 5 items in a 35MB =< file using the manual method.

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by marketingtutor. In reply to not really irrelevant

I will give you that one. If the main emphasis is on the output file being needed for testing down the line, then your solutions would certainly be acceptable in the mean time until this coder is publicly flogged and whipped into shape.

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Ongoing issue

by skibunni In reply to Assessing coders producti ...

From the sound of your post this is not the first time there has been a problem. If this is an ongoing problem I believe it could be either a lack of understanding from the start of what is required to be delivered, or a lack of appropriate skills as the task you describe does not seem excessively complicated (but then again I have no idea on scope and scope can be a dangerously underestimated thing).
Either way, I think something needs to change if you are to continue to work together. Most important thing is communication so the requirements are thoroughly understood from the outset, and honesty regarding how long the task will really take, including additional requirements such as documentation and testing.

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A Solution or solutions ...

by unni_kcpm In reply to Ongoing issue

Coding factors :

Every one of us knows(in their own way/logic) how to go about the issue.

1. A small piece of code inside a "If/
Else/Endif couple with an sql statement.
2. As said above, a find/search + Replace
Will do the trick.

You can even ask what the "real" issue
for coding and sort in above two cases.

Personal/Domestic factors :

1. Anything in this area affects her is
an issue that be tackled at a
minimal level(not advised to, still)
can be attended to by you or by
such competent(HR or a psycologist,
if need be).
2. Other issues, out of bound and to be
tackled by her ONLY.

Professional/Work related factors :

1. In this area - Even though so called
"Expert", for some, various things/works
can be accomplished in a few steps
but some needs detailed order.
2. If needed some training on the
programming or like or needed can be
provided under another/outside
"Experienced programmer" for the
requirements of the Organization.

There can be CHANCES of Work related
stress bothering her too. Need careful
talking,dealing and analysis of the

Best Wishes.

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Two sides of this problem

by marketingtutor. In reply to Ongoing issue

I think it rests about 85% to 90% on the employee. Even a moderately skilled programmer would see this task as trivial in scope. I could be wrong if there are more factors invloved than what has been mentioned.

As the employer though it is encumbent upon you firstly, to penalize/punishing this guy for missing the targets so often and by SOOOO far. Secondly, deadlines are crucial to meeting project estimates and can turn a profit into a loss in very little time. You as an employer need to treat their overages as money coming out of your wallet.

Put in some dimerit system or something. You know, like the DMV. Three points in an 18 month period and you are gone, no questions asked. Everytime I have used, or had that used on me, it produced results.

Doesn't mean you have to be a Time-Nazi with 3 cameras and keylogging in each cubicle, but like children, employees need to know that there is a firm line (3 points), that when crossed, they're fired without recourse or negotiation. If he sets a time goal, and misses it, trouble awaits. Too many times, and he's gone. That is common sense if you're to make your work a success.

You're only as successful as your worst employee.

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Some provisos

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Two sides of this problem

If I say a task will take me til next monday, that's based on the assumption that the resource I need in that time period is devoted to the task.

If you say I've got until next Monday to do it, my response is I'll have a go, but seeing as you've set the deadline it's your responsibility to provide a suitable resource to accomplish whatever it is.

My biggest concern would be the failure that resulted in the deadline being missed 3 times with no indication of what the problem is. How simple or complex the task and how competent the developer is are minor issues compared to that.
If I was managing I'd want to know and if I was developing I'd want to tell.

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I agree, but 4 deadlines past?

by marketingtutor. In reply to Some provisos

Once they get that far gone, we're both on the right side of the issue. Some communication needs to happen there.

I could agree with you a bit more wholeheartedly if the deadline was set by the boss and missed by the coder, but in this case, they are being set and missed repeatedly by the same person, without a report as to why.

Someone with project management experience as well as coding experience needs to be managing this coder. That is where senior level engineer/project manager usually steps in and would get an *** whoopin if his projections are off. That is what they get paid to do, cost/project/estimate correctly.

So I think one of two things would clean this up. Either boss gets more knowledge of programming, or hires someone with senior level experience. And one thing is for sure, someone needs to kick this guys *** and take him to task for performing like he is.

So on one level I would agree, but in this case I can't really agree, since the dealines are set and missed by the same guy, and the deadlines are vague at best. This coder is a follower and needs someone to lead him.

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Agreed to me, both sides are failing

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to I agree, but 4 deadlines ...

The developer is failing badly at estimating and communication, the project manager is failing at managing.

One missed deadline, I'd want reasons, I'd want actions and I'd want to keep a close eye on things. A lot of PM work is preventative, this is looking reactive.

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Bingo II

by marketingtutor. In reply to Agreed to me, both sides ...

Again, right there with you!

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