Work with the business, not for it

Scientists should be on tap but not on top.

Winston Churchill

In the Cold War, political and technical considerations were no longer separable. The President got a Science Advisory Committee, but “apparently… scientists must not concern themselves with devising and proposing policies; they ought to limit themselves to answering such technical questions as they may be asked.” (Leo Szilard, physicist)

Yikes! Sounds like old style software development, where the programmers receive the requirements from the business.

I think we’ve learned better than that. Many of the most successful companies are led by technical people. We need the business experts and software developers working together. The business doesn’t know all the questions developers can answer, and devs don’t know what questions to ask the business — until we start implementing. Then, necessary questions rise to the surface, and lead to discussions which include more useful questions.

If developers are “on tap” as a resource, we can’t create anything better than you can specify (and believe me, that list of requirements is no specification). Our collective imagination is better than either alone.

Asking useful questions is the hard part. Collaborate on it.