The IT Iceberg Secret

The Iceberg Secret, Revealed by Joel Spolsky

It’s pretty clear that programmers think in one language, and MBAs think in another. I’ve been thinking about the problem of communication in software management for a while, because it’s pretty clear to me that the power and rewards accrue to those rare individuals who know how to translate between Programmerese and MBAese.

Customers Don’t Know What They Want. Stop Expecting Customers to Know What They Want. It’s just never going to happen. Get over it.

When developing software applications in house, developers should work in cooperation with those who will use it. Working from requirements is not a very effective way to proceed. It is similar to the old idea of suppliers working to specifications. Dr. Deming taught long ago that companies needed to work with suppliers and customers to improve the overall system. Well managed companies have learned this and practice it.

You know how an iceberg is 90% underwater? Well, most software is like that too — there’s a pretty user interface that takes about 10% of the work, and then 90% of the programming work is under the covers


So to help manage expectations developers need to manage the expectations of others. Without that management others will leap to incorrect conclusions based on the portion of the iceberg they perceive.

Related: Lean Software DevelopmentStretching Agile to fit CMMI Level 3Toyota’s IT StrategyIT Management Training ProgramDon’t make the Demo look DoneIf Tech Companies Made SudokuSub-Optimize

2 thoughts on “The IT Iceberg Secret

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