7 Dev Team Secrets IT Managers Need To Know - InformationWeek

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7 Dev Team Secrets IT Managers Need To Know

In the age of DevOps, it's not unusual for a non-development IT manager to be charged with overseeing the dev team. This can be shock for both sides. But with the right attitude -- and these seven tips -- you can make sure that your move to managing developers is successful.
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(Image: Geber86/iStockphoto)

(Image: Geber86/iStockphoto)

In the mind of many managers, the software development group is a black box filled with creatures from myth. You throw in a specification document and after a suitable period of time (usually defined as deadline + r, where r is a random number of troubleshooting days), working software pops out.

It's a lovely system, as myth-based systems go, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to successfully managing the development process.

Most software development managers know that the software development group is staffed with human beings who respond to the same sort of factors that have an impact on most of us, but the rise of DevOps means that non-software development managers are increasingly called upon to interact with developers and even assist in managing development-based projects.

[See 10 Programming Languages That Will Keep You Employed.]

If you find yourself in that situation, there are several things that you need to know about software development in order to have things go as smoothly as possible. I'm not talking about the inner secrets of agile development or scrum, here. These are the sort of things that you need to know regardless of the particular discipline being used.

How do I know these things? To start with, I've been a developer and managed developers. I also spend a lot of time talking with developers and their managers. I also read what developers write. These points are distilled from all of those sources, with a touch of judgment and life experience thrown in for flavor.

I'm willing to admit that there are other things that managers should know before they dive into the deep end of the software development pool, and I'd love to hear your ideas about what those things are.

Here are my items to get you started. Take a look and let me know what you think. Somewhere, a software dev group is waiting.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2016 | 12:31:30 PM
Hardware, Plus Access
Nice article - good point about developers needing better hardware, and I'd add they also will need better access to that hardware (i.e. admin control of their local PC) so they can run all those command line utilities. Back in the early 2000s, one of the first things we did in my corporate development group upon receiving a new PC was to blow away the "standard corporate image" and re-install Windows. 
User Rank: Ninja
9/17/2016 | 6:58:49 AM
Documentation is really not that big of a deal these days. There are plenty of tools that extract code comments ad crunch that into a pretty looking browser based doc systems. The key here is to do two things
- write comments in the first place (devs who refuse to write verbose comments need to get fired)
- stick to the format that the doc tool understands

If that doesn't work out, hire a full time technical writer with a focus on that writer being technically skilled. Tech writers do not only do the butt ugly CHM, but should be capable to craft plenty of other forms of documentation. What they will need is the information and details.

Since it was mentioned, travel expense reports are a necessity, but companies can do way better with this. It depends on the company size and the amount of travel done, but best is to hire someone who does nothing else than book and properly charge travel and related expenses. Employees can request travel, manager approves it, and that sends the request to the travel agent of the company who books whatever is needed based on preferences. Having an expert travel booker will get the company the better deals and book connecting flights with reasonable amount of time between. It makes a difference if one connects through a tiny airport or through O'Hare.

Engineering or sales rep time is way too valuable than waste it on kludgy travel portals and convoluted expense reports. There is always a chance that there are additional expenses, allow those to be submitted and approved electronically or have the resident travel agent feed the systems as needed. Introduce per diems and apply them for the time traveled, even if someone else paid. Yes, you may end up double or triple paying for a dinner, but that is the least the company can do for making people travel, especially when it is on weekends. The company will also not come across as a nickle and diming miser. And set a fixed per diem no matter where someone travels, do not make them jump through hoops looking stuff up on federal web sites to get the applicable pay rate based on the location they travel or pass through. I am sure there are some regulatory or legal issues with that, but that is something the accountants can figure out, not your developers or engineers.
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