I have been a software developer for 10 years and in 9 of those I have been a consultant in several consultancy companies. My job is to develop software as part of a project to be delivered to a client. I have the responsibility to help the client in the best way possible. At least that is what I think my job is all about, helping a client reach its business goals in the most efficient way possible.
Unfortunately, what I think is my responsibility does not align all the time with the interests of all parts involved in the process. Sometimes the supplier(s) take advantage of the client's lack of technical knowledge and sell them the wrong tool/process/person/team, with the sole purpose of scoring another sale. Making money in the short term is the most important factor. Sometimes it is the client who, for reasons that go beyond this post, do not accept the ideas people bring to the projects and dictate their way through yet another failed project. Or seem to be more interested in playing a blame game, rather than spending energy in making their own projects successful.
This frustrates me and I see it frustrating people around me. I can see the energy and motivation of good people disappearing as they spend their time fighting broken processes and trying to stay afloat in cultures of waste and short term thinking. They may even try to change things, but end up defeated by the machine.
Are we professionals? That depends on each person's definition of professional. In my book most of us are not really professional as we, consciously or not, contribute to a culture of waste.
How should the ones who want to create real value remain motivated and engaged in their commitments when employers are often pushing them into projects that are nothing but money sucking inventions condemned to failure? Or when client's themselves do not care about waste because they think they know better or are sitting on a pile of money?
Maybe I am just idealistic and believe in a world where people are honest and transparent, but wouldn't businesses run more efficiently if there were no hidden agendas and people cared for the service they deliver?
From my experience being a professional and doing the right thing do not go hand in hand.
You may try to do the right thing, but you will end up being persuaded by all sorts of managers to open an exception and do what you know is wrong. Just this time, we promise. Being a good professional is measured by how much you sell, by how many bullets you take for the company or for how well you follow orders, not by how much real value you create.
Salesman's have to sell. That is their job and I get it. But should a salesman try to sell a product if that is not what the client needs?
Project managers's try to keep the projects on a pre-defined track. I get that too. But should they play political games and push people into doing the wrong thing because it is financially convenient even though it is not the best for the client?
Technical people have specific skills. But should they use them to exploit others who are not experts in the field? Should they held client's hostages of their unique knowledge?
Clients want a Ferrari for the price of a Lada. Me too! But wouldn't it be better if they choose a partner that is honest and sells things as they are, rather than choosing the cheapest yet unrealistic offer ending up in legal battles trying to get compensation for losses they set themselves to?
How can people trust their employers when they can see the political games going on during projects? How can people be inspired by their managers and bosses when they see the lack of honesty displayed during day to day business?
Couldn't we all contribute to break this cycle and work in a different way?
If a supplier is honest and sets the right expectations and the client is fair and understands the complexity of running IT projects, wouldn't the partnership be much more successful and long lasting?
I dare to say the main pillar of a successful business is the image clients have of it. If a company is regarded as trustworthy and with high quality standards, work should not be a problem, hiring good people should not be a problem. When, for one reason or the other, a company does not do what is the best for the client, I would say that in the long term its image will suffer greatly. After all, horror stories travel faster and further than happy endings. A company that only looks at the quick win and ignores long term sustainability will be the first one to suffer during an economical downtime.
When a client comes into projects prepared for the worst case scenario and treats suppliers as enemies instead of partners, can projects be successful? Of course not. And isn't this client going to get a bad reputation and make good suppliers stay at large?
There are a lot of good people lost in death march projects. They want to do well, but they end up frustrated. They really want to help, but they have to go somewhere else to be able to be professional according to their standards. Thing is, there aren't many places where their transparency and will to create value is appreciated and most often than not, they move from one unhealthy place to another.
If only the practices instituted could be changed and people would value trust, quality and long term relationships over the quick win, we would likely live in a world with much less waste and where people would be happier and more fulfilled in their professional lives.
Can we all just stop with the smoke and mirrors and start acting like real professionals? If you are in doubt of what I mean with real professionals, start reading from the top.
I'm writing this post knowing that being a real professional is not easy. The temptation to take shortcuts and to make the quick win is always around the corner. I hope I can do my part. And if I have the capacity to inspire others, even better.