Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Development and Infrastructure Team Dysfunctional Relationship

If you spend any time making software in a big company whose primary job isn't making software, the following patterns about the development and infrastructure teams probably apply:
  • The development and infrastructure manager are different people.
  • The managers and their staff sit too far apart for osmotic communication.
  • They are in calls or meetings together all the time.
  • Yet angst abounds between the two groups all the time, whether it's overt or simple passive aggression.
If you're lucky, the managers are technically competent and secure enough to have the good hard conversations that are necessary, thinking about things from the customers perspective and from each others perspective. Or if they're not technically current enough to have the conversation themselves, hopefully they can step aside and get the right heads together from each team to figure out things out together correctly.

Unfortunately, as the mighty MC Hawking likes to riff, Order from disorder is a scientific rarity.

Whether it's outright silly and misguided arguments, or the "WTF are they thinking?" kinds of conversations had within each group after a meeting, it seems these two groups consistently spend too much time acting like slashdot commentors and not enough time reading Peopleware.

What's difficult about this problem is that it's not a technical problem. It's the natural result of two diametrically opposed organizational forces.

If the developers would just stop writing crappy software.

If the infrastructure manager would just stop being such a grump.

If the business would just go away.

Believe me - they'd love to. This whole time they're wondering why your crappy system costs them millions of dollars, and still doesn't work as well as their free Picasa photo album, which arguably does more than your system that's shoveling bits from A to B just like all the other thousands of companies exactly like yours. But that's a whole 'nother story coming up...(the software sausage factory from a normal person's point of view).

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