Do Developers And IT Managers Always Have To Be At War?

Do Developers And IT Managers Always Have To Be At War?

Developers and IT managers both work in technology, but too often their goals end up conflicting. Can anything be done to create a more harmonious IT work environment?

Picture by Hector Alejandro

In the opening plenary at Microsoft’s Tech Ed conference in Queensland yesterday, Microsoft’s IT pro evangelist Jeff Alexander highlighted an obvious truth: that developers and IT managers often clash. As he noted:

All application developers want to do is make apps available to the business but IT professionals are under increasing pressure to do more with less.

Neither side can claim to be especially virtuous: developers frequently miss deadlines, and IT pros often do a poor job of setting out specifications. But there’s often an unhealthy divide between those two divisions which it would seem might be worth repairing. After all, IT workers presumably have more in common with each other than with other parts of the business (cue your favourite joke about the finance department).

That’s not to say achieving reconciliation is an easy task. Microsoft might have singled out the issue, but it also went to some trouble to have two opening plenaries at Tech Ed: one aimed at the IT professionals and one for the developers. That way, neither side got the chance to bitch about how they were bored stupid by being forced to sit through a demonstration of System Center/Visual Studio (delete as applicable).

One possible route forward is the shift towards flexible cloud-based systems, where developers create frameworks but the actual deployment of options is shifted towards users. At that point, IT no longer becomes the sole interface between developers and end users, as Microsoft’s Phil Duff explained:

Traditionally, IT might have deployed an application for an owner. But these infrastructures are about the entire application. We’re going to change our skill sets to create templates and embed that into the infrastructure so it can be consumed by the business on its terms as it needs to.

Thinking optimistically, that could ease the issue. Thinking pessimistically, it might mean half of both departments gets sacked and the war intensifies as everyone fights to keep a job.

Do developers and IT managers clash in your workplace? How do you deal with those conflicts? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers. Angus Kidman attended Tech Ed as a guest of Microsoft.


  • As a senior dev, the above description is true. however once mutual respect is acheived, things become a lot better.

    The trick is to get everyone understanding the ecosystem and not just their little bit. Up stream and downstream knowledge really affects how you program things. Making changes in isolate thinking it wont affect anything else is a bad thought, always assume that you’re going to break something, somewhere and you’ll find that you verify things more, issues will be smaller and the IS Guys typically happier to deploy things for you.

    Is a fun balancing act between Devs, BAs, and IS. Devs just want to build cool stuff and don’t worry much about issues, BA’s want everything, yesterday, bug free, and IS guys don’t want to change anything. Think we have it sort of right here 😀

  • I agree with Stewart but there are some cowboy devs out there that never listen or try either.

    I’m currently an IT Manager and I used to be a dev so I prefer actually sitting down with the devs and working with them to find the common ground.

    • You act as if Gawker has proper journalists who are clued in on this fancy spellchecker technology and as if anyone acts as a proper editor and reads over the articles. Lord knows that if there was one there’d be no such thing as a Brian Ashcraft article with typos.

        • I wasn’t referring to you or your typo specifically Angus, in fact the lifehacker articles aren’t as bad as the consistent trend of rushed articles with mistakes that kotaku pumps out on a regular basis.

  • Dev’s never miss deadlines in our environment. Most of the time consuming tasks belong to requirements gathering (the business having no idea what they want to do) and testing (business resource availabilities)

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