13 Jan

The Software Craftsman Cooperative

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I am honored and proud to announce the establishment of a new organization of software professionals, The Software Craftsman Cooperative (SCC).

This organization is a cooperative of independent developers who either work for themselves or as members of a very small team, and embrace the principles and ideas of software craftsmanship.

The Story

The idea for the Software Craftsman Cooperative came from conversations I had with Ryan Eastabrook while on a contract in Portland last summer. Ryan and I pushed around the idea of a group of developers who trusted each other, could work together, and retain their independence. There is a group of professionals who prefer to own their destiny, and live the ideals of agility and craftsmanship. Wouldn?t it be great if those people could come together to create something bigger than any one individual?

This fall, I co-founded Guild 3 Software, along with Elegant Coders Jarod Ferguson and Jason Grundy. Just like with the SCC, we were a group of developers with a shared history and had great respect for each other?s work. We knew we could be better as a team than if we stood alone. The strong drive to make something better than any individual led Jarod and Jason to walk away from stable, well-paying jobs.

So far, so good.

Although we are busy with some great opportunities, we realize a need for a deeper pool of talent; but, we aren?t interested in growing into a large company with employees and it would entail. Instead, we want to work with other people bold enough and good enough to stand on their own as independents, as we are. We wanted to find a small group of developers we could trust and wouldn?t need to worry about when they were on our project. We take our reputation at Guild 3 very seriously, and we will not ship poor quality software. We want to align ourselves with others who share this value.

We at Guild 3 realize that a model like the one Ryan and I discussed has true merit.

So, what if we do something about it?

We have.

And it is a brave new world.

Why This is Good for Clients

Hiring consultants to create software is a risk. Plain and simple. According to the latest CHAOS report, 60% of software projects fail. With those kind of numbers, you need to work with people who give you the best chance of success. Your best chance doesn?t come from a group of entry-level programmers at a body shop you?ll never see. It will come from a group of highly seasoned professionals with shared, broad experience.

Some things about SCC membership:

  • Membership is by invitation only
  • Membership is subject to a vote of the standing members
  • Each member is an independent developer or a member is a very small consultancy, or software boutique

This is gold for clients. They can come to the SCC and know right away the membership page lists top-shelf talented developers and each member has a team backing them up.

There is no harsher critic of a developer?s work than other developers. Membership in the SCC means a developer has been vetted by peers, has delivered value on past projects, and practices our shared values.

Doing business with SCC members gives customers a great chance of success, because they are dealing with software professionals who understand how to deliver great things and have a track record of doing so.

Why This is Good for Members

As a small consultancy or individual contractor, it is almost impossible to find work as part of a larger team of skilled practitioners. Usually, if you are selected as part of a team, it is one assembled responsively rather than deliberately. That often means you don?t get to pick your teammates and worse, you end up in places you simply don?t want to be. The software professionals in this cooperative can now say, ?I have a team I trust backing me up.? This allows any of the members to bid for larger projects and bring with them a team of mature and diverse craftsmen.

Think of the SCC as the exact opposite of assembling a large team of off-shore coders for your next project. This group of people know each other?s work, and are proud of their affiliations. We know that together we are better than any one of us.

Plus, as small business owners, we help each other with a shared knowledge around how to run a business. If it weren?t for others in the SCC, I would still be putting off buying professional insurance. Thanks, guys 🙂

Consider This

Many software developers live very content lives working in large corporations, or within smaller companies, and do some beautiful work. Software craftsmen can certainly be found among the halls of large enterprises. For those who fit this description and are happy with the lifestyle they have, I congratulate you for finding that thing that makes you content. For many others, there is a nagging question in the back of their minds, ?Could I make it on my own?? That question ate away at me for years before I finally took the leap of faith required to try it out.

Hopefully, the SCC will inspire similar initiatives the world over. With more groups like the SCC, more developers might be willing to step out on their own because the risk will be lower. You can be part of something and still retain your independence. Maybe through initiatives like the SCC, software developers can start to take their careers back. Together, we can stand up and be recognized as the professionals we are, and stop sharing cube space with others whose drive may not match our own.

There are customers out there who value the higher quality we deliver, and in doing so let us live the professional lives we treasure, committed to craftsmanship and quality over mindless execution.

Our Values

All members are dedicated to working collaboratively with clients, which means alternative ways of doing business.

The Software Craftsman Cooperative members maintain the following values:

  • Working together produces better results than working alone
  • Transparent and collaborative client relationships are healthier than fixed bid contracts
  • Delivering business value does not always mean delivering lines of code
  • Deliberate action is preferred to reactive heroics
  • Well crafted software produces more value than utilitarian execution

11 thoughts on “The Software Craftsman Cooperative

  1. Starting small to see how things go. Honestly, I am sure this could be bigger than we would want it to be soon if we let it. Deliberate growth is the idea.

  2. Well, something smaller than ThoughtWorks 🙂

    We are focusing on individual membership as opposed to corporate membership for now. That seems to clear it up for most. That way a single organization isn’t likely to try and put 10 names on the list.

    That said, if you do consulting and write software for a living and you don’t have a boss, that’s a good place to start.

  3. Great idea, David, and thanks to James Johnson for showing it to me. Let me know what us independent marketing guys can do to help promote your cooperative. I’d love to be involved in something like this.

    Best of luck!

  4. I’d agree that corporate membership probably isn’t appropriate for what you’re trying to accomplish. Once businesses rather than individuals get involved I could imagine some conflicts occurring. Keeping things as a group of cooperating, like-minded individuals almost certainly keeps the “politics” simpler. I could imagine members of the SCC also having “day jobs”, providing that they kept the SCC activities separated from their other commitments. Just me thinking out loud – always dangerous 🙂

  5. Sounds great.
    I was wondering… Is “having proven experience with the Microsoft stack” a requirement of being in the collective?

    The stated values are very similar to our own at RiverGlide, as well as ICareAboutSoftware.org and codemanship.com (set up by Jason Gorman, who ran the Software Craftsmanship conference in the UK in February 2009)

    I hope we see more like-minded individuals and communities springing up this year 🙂

  6. Very good idea. I am very interested in joining. I happen to be local to Boise also. I feel like most of the consulting jobs I take the first 6 months are so is just getting that code quality standards up to par, and implementing basic things like unit testing and continuous integration. I would rather be delivering solid code, with those things already in place, but in order to do that you need to have like minded people that do not need to be trained on best practices. This is difficult without some kind of solution like your SCC.

  7. This sounds a lot like the idea we had when starting Gaslight Software, but on a larger scale. I’d definitely be interested in hearing more about it.

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