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Warning Business Users! People are Wasting your Budget

Secret World of IT Development

Secret World of IT Development *

First of all, this blog post is directed toward everyone working outside the IT department who would like to know what is going on within that department.

I want to let you in on a well kept secret in IT departments around the country but before I do, I need to warn you about the consequences of being exposed to such information. Once you know the secret, you will feel compelled to do something about the situation you are about to uncover, so beware. If you read further you may start doing things you never did before.

Did you know that those geeky looking software development guys are spending your budget and deciding on your behalf? Yes, the same guys who wear pac-man t-shirts and have lego blocks and lava lamps on their desks are deciding what is good for you and your department. I can’t tell if this is part of an evil plan to take over your company but in all honesty, you can’t really blame them for what they are doing.

This is bad, you say.

As with many organizations, the IT development guys are under a lot of pressure to show value and this is typically accomplished by delivering software or reports, usually software artifact that gets deployed to business users. They need to show value and most importantly, they need to show it fast. Since business users haven’t spent much time and energy working with them to define what will make their job easier, they started to decide what is good for the business by themselves.

In this context,  if business users spend little time giving requirements to the development team, they will go away programming what they believe they understand of the business users’ needs and after a few weeks they bring back a piece of software. Game over, pass go and collect $200. They can then move on to the next project and show value.

Here’s the secret, this doesn’t work and you can easily understand why.

  • the business requirements may have changed;
  • the solution may not meet your expectations;
  • the solution delievered may not actually provide business value.

So in a nutshell, your precious budget is being wasted and although everybody complains their projects have been in the queue for a while, the IT department can walk in to the next management committee meeting show how many projects they have provided to the organization.

Here’s how you can disrupt this pattern.

  • Find out what the development team is working on. Do you know when your projects are scheduled to be delivered? Are they the highest priority for your department?
  • Is your project really important for your organization? If it isn’t, don’t waste the resources. Instead find someone who has a higher need for their project and strike a deal with them to bump up their project’s priority. You will ensure the resources are put to better use and will make friends within your organization along the way.

If the project is indeed important for you, treat it as such. Assign a knowledgeable and trusted person from you team to work in close collaboration with the development team. Even better, have your business ressource sit with the development team.

Despite the preconceived opinion, you will be surprised to see that most of the geeky looking development guys will be very happy that the business users are working with them on the project. Most of the development guys I’ve worked with over the year truly prefer to work with the business. They don’t always show their true feeling to the business community – it’s a secret code within their expertise – but here are the reasons why they appreciate the close collaboration:

  • They like to contribute value: Nobody likes to produce something that doesn’t get used, even worst, something that gets thrown away.
  • They like their expertise to be recognized: Technical people spend years developing their abilities and when they get to use it to solve a business issue, their expertise gets reconigned.
  • They get to understand the business: Contrary to popular beliefs, most technical resource like to understand the bigger picture and how a technical solution is applied in the business context.
  • They actually like to work with people: Flat screen, keyboards and mice are less emotional but development resources do prefer to work with people. 

So there it is. Now that you know the secret, you can no longer walk away from an IT project without getting involved. Asking questions is a good way to start. Showing interest in your project is even better.

Post a comment below with a question and I can give you some tricks to improve the situation.


* Picture by illustriousbean used under the Creative Commons (CC) agreement. The view expressed in the blog post is the one of the author. The photographer does not endorse in any way the content of this blog post or the work of the author.

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