Change management first comes to mind as a means to keep errant, untested, unapproved code from entering production. But did you know that what is good for IT operations is good for developers, too?
Developers appreciate change management. They enjoy the change management benefits of Linus Torvald’s popular Git version control system http://git-scm.com/, which maintains successive versions of the code in question, and spawned GitHub https://github.com/ where developers share and network with their community. Perforce is another version management tool http://www.perforce.com/.
But what are the benefits to developers from change management as taken in the former sense? How does the same change management that protects the production environment help the coder?
Lightening Developer Workload
Change management saves developers a lot of work. Developers benefit by focusing on the work that stakeholders agreed on when discussing and scoping the project. These are the tasks that come from their lead developer, who receives it through proper channels.
When developers do this instead of accepting countless requests from managers for adds / changes that fall outside the scope of the project that leadership agreed on, they save themselves from potentially repeating their work to replace those unauthorized changes with the coding implementations that the team leader originally tasked them with. Developers save themselves and the customer many headaches by completing planned, authorized project items rather than the requests that undermine the corporate vision.
“Change that is not properly managed is destabilizing. Unapproved changes send ripples through every aspect of project task assignments. The ultimate outcomes are unpredictable,” says Steve McConnell, the oft-quoted author of “Code Complete” (Microsoft Press). And by the time upper-management hears of the scope creep and project dilution, the damage is far reaching.
Yet, even stakeholders who felt they clearly communicated what they needed will come back at a project landmark or at mid-project to say that they require some feature that the development team is not addressing. This creates scope creep and additional person-hours that are out of the development team member’s hands. Clearly, developers see enough challenges such as this without managers visiting the developer’s cubicle once the project is in full swing, seeking adjustments for their users.
“But this duality is a specific phenomenon that I and the industry have seen. There is the official workload and then there is the unofficial plan and workload consisting of favors garnered from individual developers, which undermines the project manager, creating work that causes work to go on with the PM unaware,” says McConnell. Following change management protocols and project structure is necessary so the right hand (PM) knows what the left hand (developer) is doing.
Avoiding the Crossfire
“Developers get caught in the crossfire between unofficial requests and change management. The proper chain of command funnels down blame to the developer when their task X is not done. Yet that only happened because the VP of Sales came directly to the developer, saying he needed another feature,” says McConnell. Because the developer saw the VP as his superior, he felt he couldn’t say no. Suddenly, the developer has several bosses. As a result, development staff don’t get project tasks out on time. “This leads to prioritization of work that does not reflect the priorities of the organization,” says McConnell.
When a developer remains firm, however, sending the VP to the project manager or development team leader with any new requests, that can limit some of the crossfire.
The Joy of Completed Work
Another benefit to the developer in following change management protocols is the satisfaction of finished work, which is possible when they are not constantly changing direction. “Developers have a high desire to complete work successfully,” says McConnell. To not have to frequently change focus and to rather get work done day-to-day and week-to-week is very fulfilling for developers. “The Holy Grail for developers is to receive clear direction throughout the course of the project,” says McConnell. Developers like their work to move in a straight line. It is frustrating to change focus so often.
Developers are most motivated by the work itself. They are task-oriented people who enjoy the relief that comes with task completion. If the work is constantly redefined, that can be demotivating for them.
Coming Full Circle
“There are benefits to the developer from change management including improvements in productivity and morale. But the largest benefits accrue to the business. Change management gets things done by investing more time in moving in the right direction,” says McConnell.