Are Developers More Important Than Money?

You have probably heard the story about the hare and the tortoise. It’s the classic Aesop fable where the energetic hare and the lethargic tortoise decide to race. The hare is so confident of winning, it sleeps during the race. The tortoise however pushes on and eventually wins.

The moral is about the dangers of rushing. In our digital, always-on work environment, we are multitasking just to keep up. But many studies have come to this damning conclusion:

“Individuals that multitask experience a 40% drop in productivity and they take 50% longer to accomplish a single task whist making up to 50% more errors than workers who focus on a single task at a time.”

This is indeed a huge problem. However the reason I bring up this story is that the real lesson is about our inability to grasp time. Yes, the hare was reckless, but the real mistake was that the hare did not understand the value of time that comes with speed and agility. How often are we guilty of doing, without accomplishing?

The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends, there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.

– Thomas A. Edison

You can see clearly this disconnect with time in how IT tends to operate in companies. Often much of the work done by IT in support of the business is rework, duplicated effort, or paying down technical debt. By some estimates, $300 billion is lost every year into maintaining legacy systems or rewriting bad code.

Is this the fault of IT? Maybe. There are some IT departments that operate as if the inmates are running the asylum. Sometimes the issue is the lack of alignment between IT and business strategy. And to be fair, mainframes seemed like they would last forever back in the 70’s and 80’s. But more often than not, it is the business not internalizing the value of time and how that impacts the effectiveness of IT.

To illustrate, the head of technical recruiting of a global bank told me that they did not have budget for more hiring. Yet when speaking with the IT leadership, they were not only behind on current projects, but losing more talent through attrition than they had staff to back fill.

In another conversation, one global manufacturer put in a procurement program in order to cut costs. However, it was stipulated that any new technology project that brought in new tools had to fully replace existing tools or systems. Imagine what this does to any experimental project or innovation driven initiatives?

It is not that C-level executives do not get the catch-22. In a recent survey, 61 percent of C-suite executives said that lack of developer talent is a threat to the business. Not only that, but that the lack of developer talent was a bigger threat than capital constraints. And the results of this survey from Stripe and Harris Poll, shows clearly that developer productivity is top of mind:

So what gives, why does there continue to be a disconnect between the words and the actions? Partly it is the belief that technology is “the easy part”. But the other is making the right types of investments that are going to have the most dramatic impact in achieving results.

  1. Hiring the right talent — Note this is not about hiring the “most expensive talent”, rather it’s using various strategies such as hiring remote developers, doubling down on internships, supporting or hosting innovative events, and sourcing from non-traditional backgrounds to fill in more rote development needs.
  2. Creating the right environment — Developers want the types of tools they are familiar with in an office environment that is conducive to deep thinking and problem solving. Often companies skimp because it’s seen an being financially prudent, but that is like putting regular unleaded gas into a Ferrari. Providing developers comfortable working conditions should not be seen as a perk, but as a standard operating procedure.
  3. Fostering the right culture — IT is generally not highly regarded in many non-technology companies, this is why the best talent is going into tech. Companies need to elevate the status of IT and developers so that they are recognized for their importance in driving business results. This does not mean creating more Chief Digital Officers, it means giving the existing IT teams the license to take risks.

There is a lot that goes into each of these three ideas, but it is important to understand what goes into the architecture of a high-powered technology team. It is a foundation built on people, productivity and culture. When you have a supportive culture that positions developers as important contributors and gives them the ideal environment to be productive, you get more quality work from the talent you bring into the company.

“When deployed correctly, developers can be economic multipliers — coefficients that dramatically ratchet up the output of the teams and companies of which they’re a part.”

And when you use that time wisely, it can be more valuable than money!

Does the quote above describe how your organization values developers? What one thing would you do to raise the level of productivity of your team?

Did personal computers ever support 8″ floppies?

When you ever want to get your retro, artisanal, hipster compute on…

We help IT leaders in enterprises solve the cultural challenges involved in digital transformation and move towards a community based culture that delivers innovation and customer value faster. Learn more about our work here.

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