Friday, May 25, 2012

Keep it real

As so often happens, a recent post by Seth Godin titled "Hard Work on the Right Things" struck a chord with me.

I'm so guilty of concentrating on the wrong things, and even more often, focussing on the wrong things at the wrong times.

Customers (of the "end user" variety") and even managers, especially in the building industry, don't care about your code, how good it is, what language it's written in or whether your curly braces line up. They don't want to hear you talk about how well architected your system is. They want to know it works, and they want to know it does what "they" want it to, and nothing else.

Most of the time, "what they want it to do" is different to everyone else, and most of the time they can't understand why on earth any other customer would be different, but most importantly, they don't care. It doesn't matter.... to them.

What your software could do for them, and how well it could do it, are completely irrelevant. They are interested in knowing what they want to know right now - be that a problem a prospective customer is trying to solve, or an issue an existing customer on the phone to help desk, is trying to resolve, of a non-technical manager wanting to know when your latest project is going to be ready.

I know what Seth is getting at in his post is intended to apply to any discipline, in any industry with any customer, but I find it is particularly relevant to a developer especially one who is in close contact to the end user of their software.

This is not to say robust, well designed code isn't important or that refactoring your code to make it maintainable, optimised etc isn't vital. It is. Clearly! These just aren't things the customer is interested in (usually).

Likewise, as Seth says;
"what matters changes by culture, by buyer, by product, and even by day of the week". 
The message I take from Seth's post is (in my world) "work hard at building good quality software but be especially attuned to what really matters to the customer/manager/colleague/prospect/friend you are currently interacting with, and relate to that and you'll be a winner."

This has parallels with listening with empathy and "seeking first to understand, then be understood".