Breaking the Laws of Nature

Are sales people and developers like oil and water?

As I was reading this article I recalled Michael Feathers’ presentation at NDC about “The mistake at the heart of agile”. To recap: Agile closed the developers behind a walled garden, in order to let them produce without interruption from other sides of the organization. On the minus side, it formed the gap between the sides, which had affected how the developers understand the customers.

There are stereotypes of the developer and the salesman. Some of them are based on the occasional truths. I’ve crossed over from the development trenches to the “dark side”. I sometimes get called “working on the side of evil”. Laughs aside, we have these views of the sales and marketing.

No, the other side is not exempt from this behavior. “Why is the product not done, when they said it is? and what is this internal value they work on? I can’t sell internal value!”. Let’s admit it, we’ve contributed to how we look in other eyes. And in our banding together inside the agile circle, we’ve formed the geek culture that helps us look at the other side in Dilbertian glasses (just an example).

This “us against the world” is nice, fuzzy position to be in. But if we want to help our organization, we need to build a bridge to the other side. It starts with learning the vocabulary, using it, and dropping the sarcasm (and believe you me, that was the hardest part for me). Learn their motivation, what makes them happy and what upsets them.

Here’s an example: You know that saying “the testers are delaying  the release”? It’s because the testers get in after the development cycle (in non-agile orgs). And because the development went longer, the pressure is on them. Well, guess what. It doesn’t stop there. Marketing is next, and then sales. The marketing and sales team need the greatest help and info about the product, because now they need the confidence that what they talk about actually does what they say. Otherwise, they are left holding the ball, and if it’s not a quality ball, you know who they blame, and what they think of them.

Oil and water don’t mix. That’s a law of nature.

Developers and sales people? Not so much.

The Ruby Train Wreck

The latest “my dad is cooler than your dad” in develop-sphere, started with “The Ruby Train Goes Choo-Choo”. Soon enough many have joined the fray on both the Ruby and .Net sides, with the normal people saying: Take a rest. You are not what you program.

Of course, the normal people (I’m assuming you, dear reader, are one of us) are right, and the zealots are wrong.

While they have a right to state their opinion, let’s remove our “developer” glasses. Let’s look at this through the “business” glasses.

  • Can we trust developers to work together? They are so opinionated. They are not team players, are they?
  • Why do developers always take these things too far? Why don’t they care about solving real business problems instead?
  • And they always look for the new shiny thing. Can we trust them with making rational decisions?
  • Finally, if they become so much engulfed in these discussions, they probably have too much time on their hands.

You’re generalizing too much”, I hear you say.

“They are just a couple of idiots. It’s their foot, they can choose to put it in their mouths.”

They are not just hurting themselves, you know. Business people already look at us funny. These guys reinforce this image.

And that hurts you and me, regardless of what we think about Ruby. What business people think can impact their next hire.

Next time you see this kind of argument, don’t just roll your eyes and go away. Present the zealots with the business glasses. You might lose some geek points, but you’ll be helping the rest of us.

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