Managing Software Developers

depression-laptop-computer-sad-desperateJust read a great post on techcrunch about managing developers

A good read particularly if you have many years experience as a software developer and find yourself in a position of managing other developers. My favorite points of the post:

  • Just Because You’re In Charge Doesn’t Mean You’re In Control
  • The Sh!t Work Is Your Work
  • You’re basically a mildly glorified technical translator

In the end, you need to embrace your new role as project manager. Project success is your end game and your people are going to get you there.  You will best be served by serving your team, getting any/all obstacles out of their way so they can focus on the work at hand.  As you well know, software development is a creative and knowledge-based endeavor. You are not machining cogs and widgets, but are relying on their talents to navigate incomplete requirements, unrealistic schedules/budget, (and my personal favorite) other urgent unrelated project work that needs to get done. Handling all this and other surprises that happen daily is your job.

This can be a tough transition, particularly if you are used to (and like) working on your own and now have to engage with people almost constantly.  Here are four tips to help get this transition underway:

  1. Embrace your new role:  Let go of your development hat and leave that to your tech lead.  Use your hard won knowledge to challenge and question when necessary. (Now, if you are the lead tech, that’s another story for another post.  You may end up doing both jobs poorly on a fairly large project).
  2. Manage your stakeholders:  You need to ensure that your stakeholders are updated regularly and hear from you so that they can trust that you’ve got their concerns well in hand. Building relationships is never a bad idea.
  3. Expect a new work pattern:  As a developer you were used to “hiding away” so to speak, to think and get your work done, but this doesn’t mean you should so much as a manager.  You’ll need to embrace the fact that you’ll need to engage with people often, have interruptions at the most inopportune moments, and be behind on your work on a regular basis because of these interruptions.
  4. Know your project metrics:  Regardless of the methodology, do you know that you’ll hit your milestones?  Are you burning too much cash and won’t have the funds to complete the project?  Are the issue and action logs filling up with unresolved questions and unexpected work not accounted for?  Is the remaining schedule so tight that one or two stumbles will cause major problems?  What adjustments can be made to bring things back in line?   Does your team think these adjustments are a good idea?  Do they have some ideas?

You can see you’ll have a lot more “people” work to do.  If one day you feel like you’re herding cats, know this:  you are on the right track!   🙂

Happy managing!
, CSGardner Consulting