by Esther Schindler

Developers to Vendors: Slow Down Already!

Mar 13, 20083 mins

A common attitude among IT managers is technology exhaustion. Before you (or your organization) have had the time to discover the benefits of one product version—much less deploy it to users—a new version is released. Yeah. No surprise. But what is a mild shock is to discover the same attitudes from the developers who ostensibly are driving forward those technologies and products.

Earlier this week, I attended a Microsoft briefing about Silverlight 2. The event, sponsored by the local Phoenix-area .NET User Group, brought in Scott Guthrie and other high-level Microsoft people to describe such niceties as using Web services with Silverlight, the ASP.NET MVC Framework, and techniques for encoding video. There was plenty of technical material for programmers… but, as usual, I gleaned more wisdom from the developers during the lunch break.

In particular, one developer complained about the fast pace of product releases; he wished that Microsoft would just slow down. He said that he felt like he’s always trying to keep pace with the next version (and, mind you, Silverlight 2 just went into beta) while he struggles to support users who are using software versions that are one or two generations behind.

Another developer at the table agreed wholeheartedly. He works at a government agency, it seems, that has just installed SQL Server 2005; adopting the newest version isn’t even under discussion at this point. But rather than resent IT management for dragging their feet at deploying the latest-and-greatest, as I would have predicted, these developers were annoyed at users who try to circumvent or strong-arm IT’s policies (such as expecting their iPhones to be supported).

Maybe it’s simply that I sat at the Cynicism Table, or developers tied to a Microsoft vision are less likely to embrace change than are others, or that those who choose to work in larger organizations adopt a slower-to-change mindset… but I would have predicted a very different view. I’ve always thought of developers as the first to see promise in new technologies (which at least is supposed to be reflected in the newest version of any product) and anxious to deploy it before the digital paint is dry.

The other thing that struck me about the conversation is that the developers believed that this was a new phenomenon (according to the Gen Y developer) or that the pace of change had grown out of control (said the Gen X guy). I don’t really believe that it’s true. I worked harder to keep up with both product releases and the burden of “Too many choices!” back in the MS-DOS era, when it wasn’t just an issue of “Should we upgrade?” but “Should we bet the business on this vendor’s product rather than that one?”

This experience was completely anecdotal, so I’m not sure how representative it is. How does it match with your (or your developers’) attitudes?