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Preventing the Summertime Slump

setting your team up for success through vacation season

July 27, 2015

Most people view summertime as the perfect opportunity to take time off from work and decompress - this is especially true for us in the Boston area after record snowfalls left us stranded indoors for weeks rationing food and cursing the MBTA. But regardless of where you spent last winter, odds are better-than-not that this summer has you thinking about relaxation and finding a good place to get a tan. Whether you are jet setting down to the Caribbean for a tropical weekend, or your sights are set for a camping weekend in Maine, there is probably one person who will be less than exuberant about your travels: your Project Manager.

Conflicting summertime vacations often throw a wrench in normal work productivity and can make an otherwise efficient and productive business lag as the temperature rises. So, how can you make certain that a summertime slump doesn’t ransack your business? Follow our few simple rules to keep your projects rolling along this summer.

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1. Embrace Source Control - Here at MTC, we use source control as a part of our everyday operations. Github is our project management tool of choice because it allows a primary master snapshot of our code to exist. From here, it offers breakdowns of development branches and feature branches. Without jumping too heavily into techno-jargon, Github allows our development teams to work asynchronously on features or bugs within the system, and then merge these changes back into the bulk of the code without everyone needing to come to a halting stop to sort out whose code is more important or what goes where.

This means, that if you have four developers who all have alternating vacations planned in the same month, progress doesn’t have to stop for them to all have a meeting and discuss new changes and updates.

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2. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT . . . did we mention document yet? - The next big pitfall of summer? Poorly documented software. Nothing is worse than a client calling in need of a desperate update, only to realize that the developer assigned to them just left for Turks and Caicos for two weeks and failed to properly document. To remedy this, we recommend getting everyone to use standard “best practices.” Adopting a standard best practices helps all team members to understand what is expected of him/her - from our new intern to our most senior employee. When all developers are using the same best practices, readability of Github becomes much easier. Additionally, shared understanding of this standard speeds up the time needed to perform code reviews.

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3. Encourage and educate your team with best practices and software tools - The most important part of setting systems, processes and best practices is making sure they are the RIGHT ones for your projects. Make sure everyone is on the same page and employee communication isn’t leaving anyone out. Assuming everyone is following the “best practices” you’ve outlined, one of the worst questions that you might have come up is, “Why did Steve do xyz?” Uh oh. Steve wasn’t obvious. Maybe Steve built a complex function, or was parsing through a web service response, but now the rest of Steve’s team can’t figure out what his code was intended to do.

For the work we do is in iOS development, we’ve solved this problem by using appledoc. Appledoc is a tool that easily allows a developer to create documentation that is very similarly formatted to documentation provided by Apple. From the appledoc website:

“appledoc is a command line tool that helps Objective-C developers generate Apple-like source code documentation from specifically formatted source code able comments. It’s designed to take as readable source code comments as possible for the input and use comments as well as surrounding source code to generate visually appealing documentation in the form of HTML as well as fully indexed and browsable Xcode documentation set.”

Because we believe that work/life balance is important, especially for people who spend 50 hours a week staring at computer screens, we hope that you take vacations. BUT, we also want to make sure that you can enjoy those vacations without worrying about work getting done while you’re away. At the end of the day a project that is easy to step away from and allows another user to pick up where you left off, should always be your ultimate goal.


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