Thursday, October 29, 2009

Choosing

We make tool choices constantly, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly. For example:
  • I write a bash script to grab some network info off multiple machines. Tool chosen: bash. Didn't even think about it, just did it.
  • We're moving parts of our test plan into Jira. Tool chosen: wiki + Jira. This one we discussed for a while, and eventually made our choice based on some cruft with the wiki. I'm not sure it's going to work, but we're giving it a shot.
  • I burned a CD of our latest installer. Tool chosen: Disk Utility on my mac. This one is quick and handy, and I haven't gotten a bad burn off it yet.
As we make all these tool choices, we're implicitly considering the properties of the tool and comparing that to the requirements of the task. We have to think about only a few things:
  • What is the tool good for? Jira, for example, is good for workflows. It's horrible for documentation. A wiki is good for documentation but workflow is simply awful. Some tools are more equipped for long term projects and growth than others. Other tools are a lot lighter and good for quick or small projects.
  • How convenient is it? The tool I already have will usually trump the tool I don't have, just because of setup overhead. It's not universally true, but it takes a really great feature - or a seriously large annoyance with what I have - for me to switch.
  • How accessible is it? Whatever tool I use needs to be accessible to everyone who needs it. IMing out info is no good for my boss, for example, who doesn't use IM. If he needs to know, then I can't use the IM tool.
Many times tool choice is a really quick, almost unconscious decision. Other times it takes a lot of evaluation and explicit consideration (especially when it's expensive or has far-reaching ramifications). In the end, though, what tool you choose really only comes down to a few simple questions. So don't stress about it too much. In the end, it is just a tool.



2 comments:

  1. That whole combining workflow, wiki and reporting thing was solved for me by Mingle. I'm sure there are other tools out there as well, but I haven't bothered looking since release 2 came out.

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  2. Damn! Managed to somehow lose half my comment when I hit submit. So mostly I was going to say "YES!" ... objective & context first, tool selection second! Hurrah!

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