Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?

Do the top developers for Google’s Android operating system use Blackberries?  Do the IT guys developing Windows 7 use Macs?  Do the folks at WordPress use Blogger to host their personal blogs?

These are purposely ridiculous questions – wouldn’t the best developers use the actual tools they’re responsible for building?  Wouldn’t they do their job more effectively if they were actually a user of the product they’re developing? Doesn’t the product have more credibility if the people behind it are believers in the product’s features?  Out of everyone, shouldn’t the development team, at least, be the biggest advocates of the very software they’re implementing?  Shouldn’t they be the ones drinking the Kool-Aid?

Unfortunately, IT departments at large companies and government agencies are too often doing the equivalent of developing Android apps at work and using the iPhone at home. Sharepoint developers implement Sharepoint, yet they don’t use it to manage the implementation. The guys installing your organization’s blogging software don’t realize that the “Add a Picture” button doesn’t work because they don’t have blogs.  The team responsible for increasing awareness of your Enterprise 2.0 platform haven’t even created profiles of themselves.

Now, take a look at the official support areas for WordPress, Telligent, MindTouch, Jive or any of the dozens of social software vendor sites.  Notice anything? The developers are often the most active members of their respective communities and they’re using their own software day after day in the course of doing their jobs. If there’s a glitch involved with posting a new comment to a forum, they’re going to be the first ones to see it, diagnose the problem and fix it.

Sadly, I’ve been seeing these situations increase with the emergence of the Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 initiatives. IT departments are increasingly being asked to implement wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, video-sharing, and dozens of other varieties of collaboration software – software they may know how to code, but often have no idea how to actually use.  They’re just told to “give us a wiki” or “develop a blog for me.”  Actually using the blog or wiki isn’t a requirement.  As as I was told by one programmer a year or so ago when I recommended he start a blog to inform the rest of the community about the latest enhancements and maintenance activities,

“Every hour I spend playing around on a blog post is an hour I spend away from coding!”

Well, that was helpful – thanks! Instead of getting frustrated and ending the conversation, I should have instead elaborated on the benefits that a developer enjoys when he becomes a user instead of just a developer.

  • Higher quality product – you can identify bugs and feature improvements before they become problems for other users.
  • Increased credibility – If, as a user,  I ask how to upload my photo, guess whose response I’m going to be believe – the guy with an empty profile or the guy who’s been active on the community for the last year?
  • Increased “forgive-ability” – Look, we know that these sites will go down occasionally, especially when they’re first being developed.  We can deal with that…if we’ve been reading your blog and know that it’s down this Saturday night because you’re installing the new widget we’ve been asking for. If the site goes down and all we get is a 404 error page stating that the site is down for maintenance…again, we’re going to be less than pleased.
  • Content Seeding – Clients are always asking,  “how are we going to get people to actually work on this site and add content?”  Well, before you even launch, if your project team (including developers, community managers, comms people, etc.) actually use the site you’re building, you’ll create a solid base of content before you even start to open it up to more people.  Adding to existing content (even if it’s not related) is always easier than creating something new.
  • Common Ground – you become a member of the community instead of the guy behind the curtain making changes willy-nilly. You gain trust and respect because they know that you’re dealing with the same issues they are.  You’re struggling to access the site on your phone too.  You’re not getting the alerts you signed up for either.  You’re not able to embed videos correctly.  You go through what they go through.
  • Greater ownership in the final product – The community becomes YOUR community, not something you’re just developing for a bunch of “users.”  You become invested in it and want to make it faster, add new features, win awards, etc. because you’re a part of it.

For all you non-developers out there, would you like your IT staff to be more visible?  Would you be interested in learning more about what’s happening under the hood of your Intranet/Enterprise 2.0 platform?  What other benefits do you see to getting them more involved?

For you developers, what’s preventing you from getting this involved in the communities/platforms that you’re responsible for creating?

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

About sradick

I’m Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh.

Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

View all posts by sradick
  • Steve,

    A better title/subject matter for this post would be:

    ‘Dear IT Manager, Why Aren’t You Hiring the Right Developers and Why Aren’t You Inspiring Them to Do Their Best Work?’

    Good follow-up post would be:

    ‘Dear IT Manager, Why Aren’t You Better at Managing Irrational Tech Requests and Expectations from Non-IT Managers?’

    It’s never just the developer’s fault. More often than not, it’s one of the above.

    If you have to sell the benefits of joining a certain community, that community needs to do a better job of making him/her feel like he/she is part of it. If you can do this and address the two questions above, no doubt you’ll have fantastic developers building a fantastic product.

    Luke

  • Twitter Comment


    Commented. RT @sradick: Dear IT Guy, if you USED the platform/tool that you’re creating, you’d make my life a lot easier [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    RT @ericdbrown: Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating? [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    Dear IT Guy, if you actually USED the platform/tool that you’re creating, you’d make my life a lot easier ([link to post] ) #e20

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating? [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • CynicFan

    Great Advice Steve, but you can generalize it to any profession. For the waiter/waitress, how do you like your service when you are a customer at the restaurant? For the doctor, how do you like sitting in the waiting room when your appointment was an hour ago? For the mechanic, how do you like being told that you won’t have access to your vehicle for several days to get a part?

    The programmer’s comment is right on, however with a point of argument that you and I have had for years. Your approach here is one attempt to answer my question, “where is the value in social media for the plumber/accountant/engineer/production worker/waitress etc. If they are spending time on a computer/cell phone tweeting, blogging or otherwise informing people about what they are doing, they are not actually doing what they are paid for. In this case you are right that potentially the users of the software might grant a bit of leeway/understanding by actually using the product they are creating, but a vegetarian can still be employed as a butcher eventhough he never eats the product he is producing.

  • Great post and great points Steve. What you talk about in this post can probably be directly attributed to the overjustification effect. According to Wikipedia “The overjustification effect occurs when an external incentive such as money or prizes decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a task. According to self-perception theory, people pay more attention to the incentive, and less attention to the enjoyment and satisfaction that they receive from performing the activity. expand »The overall effect is a shift in motivation to extrinsic factors and the undermining of pre-existing intrinsic motivation.” This means that if a developer went into development because he/she loved developing software, and then that person became a 9-5 professional software developer, that person is significantly less likely to enjoy the development work because that person’s mind is telling them that they’re doing the work not for fun, but for money. With that in mind, the developer then thinks. “When I’m getting paid X/hour to develop this software, there’d have to be a pretty good reason for me to ever volunteer my time to develop this same product?” As far as I can remember (psych people keep me honest) the overjustification effect has been found to be prevalent throughout all cultures, so you’d see the same results of country or culture.

  • Anonymous

    Luke – as I was writing this, I was hoping you’d respond to this, because I think you’re one of the people I had in mind who are uniquely able to do both. I definitely didn’t mean to imply that this was ONLY the developer’s fault. There are certainly any number of factors at play, but I don’t agree that it’s the community’s responsibility to make the developer feel welcome. The developers should be the first members of the community – they should be the ones using it to actually do their development. I should be able to see the meeting notes from the development meetings, the blog posts that are functioning as their weekly status updates to their bosses, the wiki pages with the tips and tricks they’re using. Too often, we develop these “new ways of working” yet the developers of these “new ways” are still using the old ways.

  • Jeff

    Great post and great points Steve. What you talk about in this post can probably be directly attributed to the overjustification effect. According to Wikipedia “The overjustification effect occurs when an external incentive such as money or prizes decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a task. According to self-perception theory, people pay more attention to the incentive, and less attention to the enjoyment and satisfaction that they receive from performing the activity. expand »The overall effect is a shift in motivation to extrinsic factors and the undermining of pre-existing intrinsic motivation.” This means that if a developer went into development because he/she loved developing software, and then that person became a 9-5 professional software developer, that person is significantly less likely to enjoy the development work because that person’s mind is telling them that they’re doing the work not for fun, but for money. With that in mind, the developer then thinks. “When I’m getting paid X/hour to develop this software, there’d have to be a pretty good reason for me to ever volunteer my time to develop this same product?” As far as I can remember (psych people keep me honest) the overjustification effect has been found to be prevalent throughout all cultures, so you’d see the same results of country or culture.

  • i remember in my design course at penn state, my professor told us a story about a software application he was involved with building. the developers were in their normal developer bubble, secluded from the rest of the outside world – including the customers. there were so many bugs in the system that the technical support staff had a shouting match with the development team. the manager of the application decided to make a bold move: make the developers run the help desk too.

    it wasn’t permanent, but it did have a huge effect! the development team was shocked that they had no grasp of what the users actually wanted. when they went back to coding, however, they brought those lessons with them. within just a few point releases, the number of calls to the support line dropped significantly.

    i think it’s exactly the same as what you said: the development team needs to be a part of the user experience. they need to immerse themselves in what they’re building — kind of the way that pixar does with its movies (http://www.fastforwardblog.com/2009/11/09/why-fill-in-the-blank-fails/ ).

  • Anonymous

    Tim – my argument is that for developers, participating in the communities/platforms and actually using them SHOULD be part of what they’re getting paid for. This goes back to Luke’s comment below about IT managers needing to play a role in this process. They have to make active participation and use of the stuff they’re developing part of the job. As a developer, you should be expected to blog, tweet, edit wikis, etc. – whatever it is that you’re developing, you should also be using, and consequently, get paid for, because that’s how you do your job. The IT manager needs to say things like, “I want weekly status reports from you….but, don’t dare send them to me via email, but as a blog post on the system you’re developing.”

    A doctor may get paid to perform surgery, but interacting with patients is also a critical component of the job too.

  • Anonymous

    I freakin’ love this comment :). This is pretty much exactly the point I was trying to get across here.

  • Pingback: IntranetLounge()

  • Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating? [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating? [link to post] – Another version of eating what you cook.

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?[link to post] @steverad – User vs Developer Dilemma

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Pingback: Gov 2.0 Radio Hot Links – August 28, 2010 « Adriel Hampton: Wired to Share()

  • Pingback: Gov 2.0 Radio Hot Links – August 28, 2010 | Gov 2.0 Radio()

  • Twitter Comment


    IT Guy, Can U Actually Use [What] You’re Creating? [link to post] <superb work @sradick> (HT @joshuahutchison)

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick: Dear IT Guy, if you USED the platform/tool that you’re creating, you’d make my life a lot easier [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    Thanks so much! RT @2wheelsburning: IT Guy, Can U Actually Use [What] You’re Creating? [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment


    Reading: Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating? – Steve Radick, Social Media Strategery: IT d… [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Good point, Steve. To rephrase one of your maxims, dogfooding (http://sprachgefuhl.blogspot.com/2009/12/dogfooding.html) is no longer optional. In fact, just last month, it was reported that “Google has selected 400 employees to test out Google TV in their homes” (http://www.gtvhub.com/2010/08/google-employees-testing-google-tv-at-home/).

  • Good point, Steve. To rephrase one of your maxims, dogfooding (http://sprachgefuhl.blogspot.com/2009/12/dogfooding.html) is no longer optional. In fact, just last month, it was reported that “Google has selected 400 employees to test out Google TV in their homes” (http://www.gtvhub.com/2010/08/google-employees-testing-google-tv-at-home/).

  • Nicholas Giard

    In the software development community this is often referred to as “eating your own dog food” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eating_your_own_dog_food

    This makes a lot of sense for product vendors such as microsoft, google, apple. It becomes a little tricker for those of us who are doing custom software development. For example if you’re developing a custom workflow application to implement a very specific client business process. You can’t really use it yourself because it’s custom tailored to their business process (not yours).

  • i remember in my design course at penn state, my professor told us a story about a software application he was involved with building. the developers were in their normal developer bubble, secluded from the rest of the outside world – including the customers. there were so many bugs in the system that the technical sup

  • New factors ghd curls come with microprocessors, which can allow heat ceramic plates and provides a greater sense of straightening curly hair. GHD Hair Straightener Australia have locks soft and dry to go to the bathroom from time to time to rejuvenate the locks. In the treatment of hair, a number of commercial products and solutions can be used on the hair to restore elasticity of the hair. quantity of chemical effects on hair blond, while other long term results. Mystery for some time to find products for hair treatment is equally harmful to the hair.
     

  • ghdAustralia

    A good article.Thanks for the share.

    If you want to buy the ghd Australia,please contact me.If you don’t interested in it.That is find.Just want to offer you some information about ghd.

    More from: http://www.ghstyler.com

  • Pingback: Enterprise 2.0 Success is About the Players, Not the Field | Social Media Strategery()

  • Pingback: The People I Will (and Won't) Meet at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference | Social Media Strategery()

  • kjlsd52

    More MinXian nets Cheap Beats by Dre on May 12 news (reporter zhang MengYongHui JiaoJian) according Cheap Beats Headphones to the sound of China “news and vertical and horizontal” report, Dr Dre Beats Cheap May 10 November, gansu province MinXian dingxi area during some Dre Beats Cheap hail and heavy rainfall range.

  • kjlsd52

    More MinXian nets Cheap Beats by Dre on May 12 news (reporter zhang MengYongHui JiaoJian) according Cheap Beats Headphones to the sound of China “news and vertical and horizontal” report, Dr Dre Beats Cheap May 10 November, gansu province MinXian dingxi area during some Dre Beats Cheap hail and heavy rainfall range.

  • kjlsd52

    Germany’s cheap dr dre beats benevolence, cheap dr dre beats said the plane dre beats outlet crash fire after fierce, Nigeria national dr dre beats sale emergency management agency and local armed police dr dre beats cheap and traffic dre beats outlet police to the scene the rescue work. The military dr dre beats sale has sent helicopters, also in dr dre beats cheap the rescue work.

  • kjlsd52

    A. i. tauber ed., Cheap Beats by Dre said China is Cheap Beats by Dre Cheap Beats JiaZhengFu embassies or consulates in Canada with Beats by Dre Cheap the case, the police and maintain close communication Cheap Beats with the police never get requirements as soon as possible, and the relevant departments to take effective Dr Dre Headphones measures to ensure the safety Beats by Dre Cheap and Chinese citizens. We will add to the victims’ families to provide assistance and convenience after treatment. JiaZhengFu Dr Dre Headphones promise will do all it can to arrest and bring an early criminals to justice.