Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Human Side of (Agile) Software Development

In  the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of IEEE Software Linda Rising writes on the role of sterotype and collaboration in teams and explains that i t was only late in here career that she came to the realization that the "people side" of software development is both really important and really hard.

This is an important point, as it is quite easy to think that it's easy to ignore people in a project while you have more important things to work on, such as code, and tools. There is an intersection between people and tools; tools like Software Configuration Management systems, Wikis, issue tracking systems (be they software based or index cards on a wall) can improve or detract from the effectiveness of collaboration on your team. But it's easy to get hung up on the tools and not think about the effect of the tools on the really important thing: How the tools help (or hinder) the people on your team from collaborating to deliver business value.

I was fortunate to have had the importantance of the people side of software brought to my attention early in my career when one of my first managers suggested that I read The Psychology of Computer Programming. Over  time I  discovered more of  Jerry Weinberg's books, and all have had a had a great influence on me. A particular favorite of mine is Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach.

It seems like, with resources like this around, and a focus on agile software development, it should be easier for developers to understand that people and teams are as important as they are. But acknowledgement of the humans side of software is not universal, even as we're starting to acknowledge parallels between software development and other endeavors such as artistic performance.

Fortunately there is a excellent recent book by Gil Broza, apltly named The Human Side of Agile, that explores the relationship between people, tools, and processes in software development. I posted a review on, but in brief,  this book is a great agile-focused addition to my list of recommended books on how help teams be effective. Reading this book early in your career will give you a good start on understanding an often neglected aspect of software development. Those who understand it already can benefit the guidance the book offers about how to help others understand.

Reading any (or all) of these books will help you understand how to be more effective, and how to help your team be more effective in turn.

Books mentioned in this post