Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

"Business Guys"

It just means business guys by definition are more accustomed to rejecting excessive demands, and ensuring their own requirements are met. Technology guys by comparison are not taught to do this, don't gain practice in it, and are actively discouraged from it by corporations that need them.

---> This is arguably the single greatest quote I've read about coders and business people, ever.

I think it deserves it's own thread.


Matt H.
Monday, July 28, 2003

I would say the "business guys" definition  applies to any hierarchical relationship. 

Tech guys tend to report to business guys.  But business guys report to more senior business guys, who report to even more senior business guys, and so on...

The only time I see someone with the ability to "reject excessive demands" is when they own the company or sit VERY high in the food chain.  Delegation is always downward.  So tech guys are the same as any low level worker.  They have no one to delegate to.

Mike Gamerland
Monday, July 28, 2003

I've rejected excessive demands at all levels of the food chain. Of course, one notable rejection from high in the food chain got me fired. :-)

You *can* reject excessive demands, provided:
1) You can quantify "excessive"
2) You have earned the right to do so (hard worker, generally delivers on time, etc, etc)
3) You do so respectfully
4) You recognize you could be fired for doing so, but you could also be fired for *not* pointing out excessive demands and delivering late...


Monday, July 28, 2003

Well said!

Danny B. Developer
Monday, July 28, 2003

It took me years to learn to say "No".

Monday, July 28, 2003

Off topic I know, but Philo, I've always found it funny how caring too much about your job means learning to not care too much whether you'll still have one.

On topic, I agree wholeheartedly about what 'The Man' wants me to be interested in.  And why not?  In some ways, it'd be great for them if the hardest questions I ever ask about the business are "Are we going to use .NET / insert other new cool toys here?" and "Can I have a raise?"

Monday, July 28, 2003

Talking to the "business guys" means using "business talk".  The nuances and between-the-lines phrasing is critical.  Mistakes often made when talking up the food chain:

- Don't say "probably not".  If a sales person is asked "say, can you increase sales 200% this year"?  This answer is usually, "are you crazy, I'm on the phone 8 hours a day as-is".  Ask a developer the equivilent question and the answer is usually "well, if everything falls into place, there are no 3rd party bugs, etc. then it's possible, but I doubt it".  A clean, simple, "I'm sorry, but that's not possible" is better than a grey area answer.

- Attempt to be realistic.  I've found that developers who underestimate time lines, have often done so throughout their career and will probably always do so.  It's sometimes more of a personality trait that a skill.

- Don't be afraid to pin them down.  "The app must be browser based".  Why?  Is this an absolute requirement from most of the customer base?  Or, was it just the reason given for losing the latest sale.

- Stall.  This is risky, but can pay off.  See whether they still "need" the feature two weeks from now.  Some people are impulsive and everything is an emergency.

- Stress give-and-take.  Sure, you can have that, but it will mean project B doesn't get completed on time.

- Have a unified voice.  Nothing hurts more than some green "yeah we can do it!" voice from the back of the room.  Unfortunately, there's always one of these people in a development group.  Threaten this person with a spanking if they speak up.  They get a gold star for their "can do" attitude and you get 60 hour weeks.  Shut this person up at all costs.

- Counter with a written proposal.  "This is the best we can do".  List contingencies so you have an out if the project slips.

- Stress the volatile nature of timelines.  Use the analogy of a marketing campaign.  How many sales are you going to generate from that direct mail piece?  Oh, a 1-2% response rate?  That's a 100% degree of uncertainty.  They're okay with that, but want a development schedule that's cast in stone.  Sorry, but some things can't be predicted.

- Realize that, like software developers, the incompetancy rate from "business guys" is significant.  Sometimes you're not going to win.


Bill Carlson
Monday, July 28, 2003

Actually the trick is to say No, whilst saying Yes.

Simon Lucy
Monday, July 28, 2003

<<<Ask a developer the equivilent question and the answer is usually "well, if everything falls into place, there are no 3rd party bugs, etc. then it's possible, but I doubt it".>>>

There's a good one.  Guilty as charged.  Someday I'll start getting this right. 


Matt Conrad
Monday, July 28, 2003

Thanks Matt. That was my quote. Re the guy who says business guys also suffer in the hierarchy, I would say they don't really.

It depends on exactly what they're doing of course, but they're the ones whose contracts specify they get paid right to the end if they get terminated early. They get bonuses if they meet deadlines. They're used to looking after their own interests.

Sales guys sometimes make stacks more than senior management, because of bonuses. What's more, they know their leverage and they use it.

Monday, July 28, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home