Software people – web developers, coders, software engineers – get an unfair press. As a society we find their mystery suspicious, and the stereotypes we know are the product of ignorance. It’s time to kill the myths and set the record straight.
MYTH #1: They can’t relate to other humans, let alone the cut and thrust of business
We’ve all been guilty of pigeon holing software developers as socially awkward geeks. Worse still, accepting the notion that it’s the technical wizardry that makes them so bereft of human understanding. But the most insidious aspect of this myth is the belief that software developers are reclusive misanthropes, reluctant to engage with the realities of a business until someone forces them to.
In fact, the opposite is true. While coders, web developers and their ilk contain their fair share of oddballs – and while technical skills are highly prized – the paramount function of these professionals is to empathise with and promote the experience of human users, and to apply the context of real business challenges.
Rather than be happily cut off from the world, software developers are most downcast and disempowered when they don’t feel part of a bigger picture; where their hard work isn’t tangibly part of something that transforms business fortunes or users’ lives.
MYTH #2 They treat any sign of their clients’ technical ignorance as a license to print money
Mystery is unsettling so, when you’ve no idea how something is done, you become suspicious. Beavering away in their sordid little cabals, away from the real world, we’ve heard how software people are paid insane amounts of money to do things no-one really understands. Damn them, it can’t possibly be merited!
The reality is that money-grubbing shysters exist in all walks of life, and software development is no different. But you are as likely to be shaken down for your ignorance of nails in a DIY shop, or burials at a funeral parlour, if you find yourself engaging with a disreputable establishment.
The good news is that software development is an extremely competitive industry, particularly in the UK, and professional standards are typically high. Stay focused on the fact that that real users and real business objectives must always be at the centre of any software development project. There is no need for anyone to confound you with technicalities and make you feel uncomfortable. Be wary if you are ever led down this path.
MYTH #3 They overcomplicate the hell out of things so projects end up taking ages
“I don’t understand why this is taking so long – you only need to change that thing and make the bits work better!”
This final myth is rooted in the deep seated suspicion that software development isn’t half as complicated as its proponents would have you belief.
As with lawyers who profit from drawing out simple cases into unnecessarily convoluted affairs, the poor businessperson is powerless to do anything but bide their time and dutifully pay their bills. The fact is that an effective software development process can’t be completed overnight if you are committed to doing it properly.
What you ought to query instead is the software developer who’s determined to convince you it’ll all be a breeze. Have they really explored what’s involved, and is it realistic?
Don’t make the mistake of just going with the flow when what you really need is clear, honest communications between you and your software developer. This can avoid storing up nasty surprises later in the process.
Software itself is so intrinsic to a business’s prosperity that even an apparently minor project is invisibly connected to almost every aspect of its operations. Web developers – for example – aren’t just sprucing up the shop window; they must study user behaviour, understand and improve business processes, map and anticipate future market changes.
Why not talk to one? Software developers can hold the key to business transformation, whether that’s developing a new revenue-generating service through software or applying technology to optimise internal business processes. It pays to understand what they’re really like, and to have them understand what your business needs.