Ron Richards in his post “The career software developer…” alludes to the observation that “…it is not surprising to discover that there are more people scoping, managing, testing and supporting the work of software developers than there are software developers.” I would have to say that I believe this is a sign of hope for software applications – or at least it could be, depending upon just how well those performing in these support roles can identify and communicate, or otherwise translate user and operational needs into the formats for the career programmer or software engineer to do their job most effectively.
I recall a situation a few years back where I was part of a group evaluating potential ERP systems designed for the particular vertical market of the business. One of the biggest selling points of the vendor finally chosen was that their software didn’t originate from software development guru’s, but rather from the roots of key company players who were firmly entrenched in the vertical market for which the software was created, and through the years they had developed and enhanced their product to keep up with the needs of the market. Sounds good, makes sense, but the reality was that much of their successive revisions and enhancements after their early years were more created to boost sales or meet changing technology requirements. Hence their system rather than being updated with re-design was rather “patched” together as a patchwork quilt.
I don’t believe that the career IT professional needs to start out as a programmer of software developer. What I DO believe VERY STRONGLY is that to be most effective the career IT professional MUST understand the business of their employer to a level I suspect very few do. Perhaps I think as I do because my introduction to IT had its roots in software quality assurance, though it really was more like software evaluation. The company developers hated to see me wander into their offices – they knew I probably had another “brainstorm” about a feature that should be added.
I believe that the most valuable IT professionals are those with an understanding of the business, an ability to adapt, a keen eye for opportunity and a burning desire to make a difference to their organization. These professionals are not necessarily the “guru’s”, and in all probability are not. Of course, being a bit crazy also helps!