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Discussion on: Invest in building custom tools

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Sam Atkinson

So I disagree with this line:
"Custom tooling requires a lot of good communication because the folks who need the tools most are not necessarily the ones who have the time to build them."

Not that good communication isn't awesome and of course we should strive for it. But the sentiment then is that you have a group of devs who are maxed out who say "I'd like tool X", and a separate team dedicated to building those tools.

In my area we've found that you need to make developers suffer the pain points and allow them the slack to go and fix them. Our mantra is "smallest thing first". If your release process sucks, improve it a tiny bit, write an internal blog about what you've done, and iterate. Other people will join in and help if they're suffering the pain and have the capacity to help. If they don't have the capacity then you need to create it for them.

Not all tools will succeed and many may get rewritten multiple times, but we're a few years down the road in our journey and have an absolute ton of custom tooling which allows the devs to go at lightening speed with minimal interference. The pay off from giving people the capacity to increment the tooling as a side-of-desk project has been many fold.