In April 2009, 8th Light and Obtiva will each send a senior developer to the other company for a week. Neither will be charging their existing clients for the developers’ time. The presence of the developer will mean exposing client lists, proprietary projects, and the endless details of running a small business to a competitor. 8th Light and Obtiva are both located in the Chicago area and have similar businesses. Why would we open our doors to a competitor? Why would we give up a week of billable time for some of our most experienced people? What are we hoping to accomplish during that week?
First, we feel comfortable opening our doors to a competitor because we trust each other. The trust I have for Micah Martin and Paul Pagel come from knowing them for 6 years, knowing that they were mentored by Uncle Bob, watching them make a difference through their code fests at the agile conferences, and observing their open source work.
Second, we would give up a week of our billable time to swap developers because we believe we can learn from each other. By learning from each other we are going to make each other stronger. By making each other stronger, we are making our companies more competitive. In our conversations about this partnership we acknowledged that we do compete with each other, but more often we are in competition against people and companies that do not share our values. This partnership is a first small step toward building a loose network of small businesses that share the complimentary value systems of Extreme Programming and Software Craftsmanship. We have invited other companies to join this network and are excited to do similar swaps after this first swap in April.
Who would we consider swapping people with? We would swap people with a company that we trusted. I won’t go into detail about how this trust would be established, but knowing Corey Haines probably helps.
Lastly, we hope to establish a deeper trust between 8th Light and Obtiva during that week. The more trust that we have in each other, the more options we will have when we collaborate in the future. Having options is incredibly powerful for a small business because we can so easily and quickly choose the best one, compared to a large company with more inertia. Furthermore, we believe that the journeymen that we send will personally benefit from the experience, and the feedback that they receive and provide will benefit our respective companies. The new techniques and practices that the journeymen bring back with them are going to work their way through our teams as they rotate through pair programmers or present what they learned at meetings like Obtiva’s geekfest.
I will post updates and more thoughts on this fledgling network as we get closer to the swap and set up swaps with other companies. Many thanks to Corey Haines who inspired the idea and facilitated the conversations.