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Advice for the Young Software Developer - It's About the Business

By November 7, 2010

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Photo © Tim Perdue

I know you are a hot-shot .Net developer 1 year out of college. Even in this horrible economy, you have multiple job options. My advice to you is to learn your business. Now more than ever, decisions made are about the business. This is even more important for small development teams as it's less common to have formal processes in place for IT project portfolio analysis or change requests.

In other words, it's not about the cool new feature you can code or the rich interface you can design. It's about the value you bring to the business with every project or every change request you deal with every single day.

Tips to Focus Software Development Work on the Business

  • IT Project Portfolio Analysis: If your team doesn't have a formal project portfolio selection process or change request process, ask your IT management to consider moving into that direction.
  • Estimate Benefits from Project: If you are involved in the IT project proposal process (pre-requirements), encourage the business stakeholders to forecast the increase in revenue that the project brings or the time savings that results from the project. Make the project about the business results and not about the software itself. For the next software change request you get assigned to complete, ask about the impact to the business. If the change impacts 75% of customers using your website, do it. If the change request helps an administrative staff member save 15 minutes a month, question the business value of the change.
  • Learn Excel: Learn Microsoft Excel from the perspective of forecasting business value. Maybe you need to quantify hours saved resulting from the project versus labor required by you to code everything. Keep it simple but learn to show the benefits versus costs of the project or change request.
  • IT Process Improvement: Look at your own processes. Look for opportunities to save time or money by taking on new initiatives. Show your IT management the numbers and they will begin to think of you as not only a developer but also as a business person.
  • Role of IT Business Analyst: Learn the role of the IT Business Analyst. I am not saying become a Business Analyst but you will benefit by learning some of their skills. This is particularly important for small development teams.
  • Grow Relationships: Work to grow your relationships with business stakeholders. Get out and about and meet the business people from your company. They can help you understand the business which will help you look at things from a business perspective.

Invest time in learning about your business. As you learn to focus on the business and not just on development, your IT management will take notice. I can assure you of that. If you are lucky enough to work with an IT organization that looks at projects from the business perspective, that's great. You can still benefit by getting more involved in that process. This is particularly true if you have career aspirations to move into IT management. Good luck.

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