Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So ...where’s the fun part?

I have the feeling of having killed somebody’s dream in my last post. And also of walking on the edge of being misinterpreted. I think I’ve got to blog about it again from a different angle.

I like developing software. I think it’s fun. Even if I like solving complicated puzzles, I think the best part of software development comes from working within a team. I have some friends working for the Toro Rosso F1 Team (being from the same town makes it easy), and I know how everybody felt after winning in Monza. This is the kind of feeling a team should work for. Not every team could be so lucky, but got the point.

Are we just executors?
So, are we just implementing a specification? Nope. If that was the job, pick some MDA tool and have it do the job for you. I just asserted that coding is a lot less creative than many developers think. Finding a proven solution (hopefully a good one) is often a preferable alternative to an original one. And “original solutions” often degenerate in in-house frameworks lock-in.

But being mere executors just doesn’t work either. Following specifications is a waterfall, but it’s also a waste of talent. And such a scenario will eventually lead to low motivation, and talent loss within your company.

Creativity might slip in when the puzzle is more complex than usual, or when tempting something new. In this cases, you have to fight with the creativity tools: get away from the workstation, have a (time-boxed) brainstorming session, involving somebody else, be provocative, avoid censorship. The key is to recognize which type of problem you’re facing and to use the right tool for the job.

Learn and challenge
Another area of software development where you definitely need some creativity is interaction with users and stakeholders. Understanding the problem domain is an interesting activity, which will lead you in unexplored areas of knowledge. Understanding the way users are interacting with your application, and the reasons for that, might lead you to propose some features that might come in handy, or make the difference!

Software development teams are often a concentration of pretty smart minds. Pretending that the only focus is code, is wasting talent and, often, a mess.
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