Mike Jones is a Trainer with FDM Group delivering training in web development, SQL, UNIX, Object Orientation and Java, as well as Finance and Financial Applications. He has worked with major corporations, Shell and Diageo amongst others, as a technical consultant, business analyst and project manager.
"I keep six honest serving men" is a line from a poem written by Rudyard Kipling and included in his book “Just So Stories”.
The first verse of the poem contains words that hold true in many walks of life and are particularly applicable to anyone involved in the business and IT domains.
I keep six honest serving men,
they taught me all I knew.
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who......
A constant source of debate centres on what makes good software designers and developers. Both professions have traditionally attracted different skill sets but are the differences are narrowing as computing increases its modern day pervasiveness? It might be said that a good designer needs to ‘see the end game’ i.e. to visualise. The designer has traditionally needed the right capabilities to do this: communication, empathy with users, and the ability to document and to compose the picture. These elements may have been swept up in modern day tools like UML (Unified Modelling Language) but the base precepts remain as they have always been, the ability to ask the questions and build the story – the ‘What’, ‘Why, ‘When’, ‘How’, ‘Where’ and ‘Who’ in the Kipling poem. It may be true to say that design standards have been variable over the decades and developers have not often had the best support and specifications to work from, allowing licence to be taken. Recent developments in collaborative working are changing this.
On the other side of the coin, a developer has traditionally been seen as requiring a different skill set and may not have felt the need to see a well documented solution with a clear end game. In hitherto localised application environments with limited user requirements, the developer has often not had to see beyond a limited horizon. Interaction with users to fully understand requirements has not had the importance it deserves and the focus has been on ‘wizzy’ technology at the expense of true operability. A good developer is one that can understand one or more programming languages and associated toolsets, and may very well have been able to launch into a new piece of development without indeed visualising the end picture. Much of traditional development effort has been directed into small application development or ‘quick fixes’ without the need for the bigger picture. However, to progress a modern extensive, global application and deliver success requires the right questions to be asked: ‘What’, ‘Why’, ‘When’, ‘How’, ‘Where’ and ‘Who’.
The need for global and wider area sophisticated applications has required smarter working to reduce costs of development. This has required closer ties and better cooperation between designer and developer communities. Neither incumbent can succeed without the other and each has come to recognise the need for their different but complementary skill sets. Hail the emergence of Rapid Application Development (RAD) and its many variants...... The designer and developer are working closer together and are often part of the same Scrum team. Both designer and developer have come to ask the same questions in the same domain. The ‘six honest serving men’ are serving both masters and contributing to a story that both designer and developer understand.
So, what makes a good designer and a good developer? The answer has to be – ask the right users the right questions and work empathically and collaboratively to the common goal. The ‘six honest serving men’ provide a good starting point.
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