CIO.com.au has published several stories that examined the sometimes volatile, often misunderstood and never dull relationship between CIOs and application developers — from new to 8 Reasons Why a Developer Would NEVER Want To Be a CIO to Getting Clueful: 7 Things CIOs Should Know About Agile Development.
Those articles were presented solely from the programmer's viewpoint, however. We wanted to give the bosses — CIOs and IT leaders who perhaps were irked by the "clueless" label — a chance to respond. Because, certainly, developers can be out-of-touch too — just in different ways.
CIO.com asked IT leaders what they wish developers knew so that the programmers don't appear clueless to the rest of the organization. The bosses' responses, gathered from eight CIOs and IT managers and which have been anonymously condensed, show that many developers need to gain the bigger-picture view of their organizations to appreciate the challenges of those "clueless" CIOs.
"It turns out that the concepts of business strategy bear repeating," observes one IT director. "Developers get so heads-down in the minutiae of coding that they forget about the 40,000-foot view of the business."
1. Developers Don't Think Practically
Developers often look for an elegant or slick solution to a problem, but they don't always look for the practical one. "I've had developers that will go to any lengths to write something instead of buying it, even if their hours cost more initially, plus upgrades and testing each and every time the data base or interfaces change," notes one CIO. "I rid myself of one of those [developers] recently."
This CIO retells a story: "I had to fire a developer who never had an error when his program compiled; he desk-checked [the application] so many times to assure himself (and it was a source of his pride) there were no errors. The compilers had error checking routines to do much of the same thing. His programs were elegant, but he got fired for scarcity of output. Others who used the compiler testing were completing 300 percent of his output, but he just couldn't give up his opinion of the correct way to do it."
2. Developers Still Don't See the End-User Perspective
Solving business problems is more complex than everyone imagines, says one CIO. But to IT management, the business unit and the development team, these problems often appear quite easy to solve. "Getting your development team to truly see the world from the end-user perspective is important and much harder than you would think," notes the CIO. "The developers need to learn to quickly empathize with the end users' needs and issues — and attack the solution from that perspective."
Adds an IT director: "Personally, it is surprising to me that most of the developers that I work with still have no sense of the user experience. A development team can create an application that does everything from balance your chequebook to burning your toast, but if the user interface sucks, no one will use it — period. No amount of training or re-training will make users sign on to an application with a difficult UI. That simple concept seems to be a struggle for developers to understand."
Another CIO adds: "As a developer, I want to add as much functionality as rapidly as possible to keep users happy," says the CIO. "As a CIO I want the users to still be happy five years from now, which takes a bit more upfront planning."
3. Developers Can't Get Away from the "Wow" Factor
Developers love the "cool" or "wow" factor of applications. CIOs seek stability and standardization. "It's more efficient to be on one platform than to spread your resources thin over many because you bring in the best new tool without retiring the legacy," says a CIO.
Another CIO points to the dire need to build applications for reliability and scalability. "Many business owners have a short attention span and limited patience. We need to engineer applications for rapid performance under maximum load," the CIO says. "An application with fewer features that is completely stable and fast is better than a full-featured application that is unreliable and slow."
"I'm less concerned about cool technology or wow factor," the CIO adds, "and am more concerned that the finished application supports the required business processes."
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