I came across two interesting pieces of news this morning:
HP is cutting back on telecommuting. By August, most of HP’s IT employees will be required to work from one of HP’s office instead of from home, even though HP pioneered the telecommuting trend starting in the late sixties. Apparently they have found that significant efficiencies are gained by allowing the IT employees to collaborate in person and learn from each other. (via Slashdot)
Up until a few years ago I always thought that telecommuting was a good thing, but my views have changed since then - particularly in light of agile methodologies. Obviously, Extreme Programming (or most other agile methodologies) would be impossible without being colocated with the other developers. One of the most obvious practices that would not work when telecommuting is of course pair programming, but this extends to many other agile principles and practices, such as collaborative code ownership and continuous integration. But even outside of agile development, there is simply no substitute for direct collaboration with your fellow developers as well as with other project stakeholders. Developers should learn from each other every day, ad-hoc discussions and model-storming sessions are needed for important design decisions, and last not least I think it is vital to achieve team spirit and common goals.
I still think that companies should trust their employees enough to allow occasional telecommuting, for example when a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day makes it infeasible to come into the office. But if this trust does not exist, it seems like the company is facing more important problems, anyway…
In other news, Apple is pulling its software operations out of India. They did not specify any reasons, but presumably this is another move to increase efficiencies. (also via Slashdot)
Perhaps Apple has found that having the developers separated too far from the project stakeholders didn’t work for them?
It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on these telecommuting and outsourcing trends to see if they signal a global change in corporate workforce strategies…