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Do Developers understand budgets?

Had an interesting conversation with a good PM recently (yes, there are such things as good PMs).

There was a project that revolved around upgrading an application from a much earlier version of the .NET framework to a more current one.  Even after the upgrade, the overall workflow process includes a number of manual steps in error scenarios that are sub-optimal.  A developer on a different team suggested that it was a mistake to allow such manual steps.  Surely, proper usage of the capabilities of the .NET framework could eliminate these manual steps.

From the outside, this suggestion seems correct.  However, what the developer in question didn’t know or recognize is that the scope of the upgrade did not include eliminating these manual steps, and so wasn’t budgeted for (rightly or wrongly).

When discussing this with the PM, I pointed out that the developer wasn’t considering things like budget or scope.  The PM suggested that this was the norm.  Even good developers don’t consider these things.

Though I get his point, this took me a bit by surprise.  Almost all of the best developers I’ve ever worked with do consider these things, yet he was insistent that in his experience, this isn’t the case.

It seems to me that any developer that wants to consider themselves to be a good developer needs to take these into account.  Although this is especially true when dealing with more traditional corporate environments, it also should be true in start-up situations.  All development efforts are constrained by time, quality and cost.

posted on Sunday, December 11, 2011 8:55 PM Print
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# re: Do Developers understand budgets?
Richard Dingwall
12/12/2011 7:51 AM
If there was something large that could decrease risk of manual/cowboy server admins or streamline/speed up a process, a good developer would definitely suggest it as a recommendation and present a business case why it's a good idea. (That's what they pay us for, our expertise, right?)

If there isn't budget for it right now, then it goes in the technical backlog, "known issues" or "known defects" list or whatever. It's an agreed compromise - the business may simply not have money to spend on that fancy new installer right now.

If (you think) not doing it introduces considerable risk, however, or ethical issues, or otherwise threatens the project then you notify everyone very loudly and get it signed off an agreed upon (above the PM's level if needed) that we are doing something against developer recommendations. And they only have themselves to blame if it all goes wrong :)
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# re: Do Developers understand budgets?
jdn
12/12/2011 8:22 PM
@Richard

I think the last thing we need is more developers claiming things introduce ethical issues ("what? you don't use IoC? That's evil!!!!!!"), but what you suggest otherwise makes sense.

The general point though was that the developer on the other team had no understanding of the history of the application, or the decisions made in terms of what to include in the upgrade in terms of budget and scope because budget and scope aren't things that appear to occur to him.

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