In the present economic climate the mantra in most companies is do more with less. In all too many companies, hiring is frozen, there may even be layoffs, but at the same time the number of people in I.T. is frozen, there is more work required to keep the company going.

There are things we can all do to improve productivity. There are a number of things we can do to manage people so they are more productive (some good ideas here). There are a number of things we can do to better determine what must be done in each project, and equally important, what is not needed.

There are also programming tools that make programmers more productive. That is the focus of this post. The following are the items I have found to deliver a tremendous return on investment. The kind of help that does help you do more with less:
  • Dual 21" monitors. Numerous studies show as much as a 20% increase in productivity over a single monitor. If your dev team drops from 6 to 5 people but you get the monitors, you may end up even.
  • VmWare or Hyper/V. Having a virtual machine that is configured identically to the production system, and that can be rolled back to it's initial state before installing each new version, lets developers test their code in it's production state. This reduces the number of bugs in a developer's code.
  • Java developers - IntelliJ. The capabilities in the IntelliJ IDE far surpass Eclipse and the additional refactoring alone can save a developer hours to days a month.
  • Reporting - Windward Reports. By using Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, & PowerPoint) as the design tool, developers can design reports in 1/10 to 1/20 the amount of time required by other reporting packages. For someone working fulltime on reports, that saves 36 - 38 hours/week.
  • Oracle Forms - FMB Merge. A diff tool for Oracle forms. It not only save the developer a lot of time, but it also reduces the bugs in modifications to the program.
  • PeopleSoft - Araxis. I think it would be impossible to merge PeopleSoft updates with local customizations without this. The difference in development time and reduced bugs is gigantic.

Upgrading to the above should give you a clear measurable increase in productivity. It's not a silver bullet, but it does help. If you have any suggested additions to this list, please add as a comment.