What should be the criteria for an organisation to decide when is it a good time to update its toolbox?
When we recently discussed this topic my colleague Jordan Valdma came up with the following formula to decide when adoption makes sense:
new features + developer coolness > cost of adoption
Cost of Adoption
Introducing anything new means loss of efficiency until you have mastered it well enough. Following the model of Shu-Ha-Ri (follow-detach-fluent) it may be relatively easy to get to the first level — “following”. However, it is only when moving to the next levels when one starts cashing in more of the potential value. That means looking beyond the specific feature set of the tool, searching for ways how to decouple oneself from it and employ it for something more principal. One of my favourite examples is using hexagonal architecture with Ruby on Rails.
By new features I mean the things that are actually valuable for your product. There are many aspects for any new thing that are hard to measure and are quite subjective. These should not go here. For example, “allows to write code that is more maintainable”. This is very hard to prove and seems more like something that one may choose to believe or not. However, there are also things like “supports server-side rendering”. If we know our product could take advantage of this then this is good objective reason for adoption.
I think when it comes to new/cool technologies it is always good to be pragmatic. In an organisation that is heavily business/outcome oriented it may seem that there should be no room for non-rational arguments like how someone feels about some new language/library.
However, it is quite dangerous to completely ignore the attractiveness aspect of technology. There are two points to keep in mind. First, all good devs like to expand their skill set. Second, technologies that have certain coolness about them tend to build stronger communities around them hence have the potential of growing even more compelling features.
Originally published at https://tech.transferwise.com on February 6, 2017.