8 Reasons Why CIOs Think Their Application Developers Are Clueless

Sure, CIOs can be clueless. But so can the programming staff. It's time for the other side of the story: CIOs and IT managers explain just how out-of-it their application development staff can be.

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4. Developers Don't Think About ROI, TCO and Other Business Priorities

A CIO has to balance a whole panoply of choices and pressures, says a CIO. "Often the best way to do something is to make it cost effective—not cool. CIOs have to weigh risks and costs and potential benefits. Remember the 80/20 rule, think of return on investment and total cost of ownership issues and business priorities. The developers have a limited number of tasks to do and can pretty much concentrate on one item. Many have spent their career focusing on the development of simple working units, not running a business."

Another CIO says that "the CIO is not only responsible for getting the right technical solutions to the company but also ensuring that a number of additional objectives are met including TCO, positive relationships with the business units, the strategic use of the IT function and more. Getting this done may make the CIO look aloof or clueless—but without this leadership, IT will fail in the organization."

The IT director says that developers also lack a sense of how their work impacts the business and therefore the bottom line; or a broad knowledge of the business strategy. "These are fundamentals that need to be included in any in-house developer's career development plan," the IT director adds.

5. Developers Don't Get the Underlying IT Value Proposition

The CIO is trying to show the overall value of the IT function to the organization, notes one CIO (unless it is a software company, which is a different model). The executives that CIOs have as customers are trying to get an answer, perform some function and get their jobs done.

"IT to them is like electricity: they need it, but they don't appreciate it," says the CIO. "Having the 'prima donna' developers' attitude that the organization exists to provide them with some intellectual stimulation is not what the executives want to hear or feel!"

Instead, some developers think it's all about their code. They fail to understand the mission of the business and "that they don't drive it, they support it," notes the IT manager. "Their work is often not mission critical or urgent."

6. Developers Don't Have (or Want) Corporate Skillsets

Most developers do not have the skills to become a CIO, observes one CIO. "I think a survey would show that 80 percent of the CIOs that came up through IT to be a CIO came through the operations side," says the CIO.

The skills required of a IT leader, the CIO contends, are not those of a developer: CIOs have to deal with uncertainty—not hard and fast coded rules; CIOs have to manage the economics of IT—not the technical "coolness" factor; CIOs have to live in a world of compromise—not the "one true answer."

"I think it is like the Mars and Venus gender discussions," notes the CIO. "What they see depends on where they stand, and they stand in completely different environments."

7. Developers Aren't Into "Group Think"

"When you get a technical team together to discuss issues and ideas for improvement you will hear what sounds like a consensus set of issues and solutions," observes a CIO. You need to probe deeper, the CIO says, because "each technical person is different and when asked individually you will find that they do not all share the group opinion, thus solving for the group's suggestions won't bring about all of the desired results."

Along similar lines, another CIO points out that "the lone genius developer" is a risk to the organization since his departure can put entire applications at risk. "Every application needs to be developed by a team and have thorough documentation so that it does not depend on any one person," the CIO adds.

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