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At last year's developer summit, I was quite impressed by the quality of the keynote speaker. This year's speaker was Alan Cooper, author of "About Face" and "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum." He had quite a few interesting things to say, although not all of them I agree with.

Much of the material in the talk was lifted from books by Peter Drucker and Paul Glen ("Leading Geeks"). The talk was interesting, and at least a little controversial -- especially considering that I was sitting between two agile advocates.

Some of the interesting thoughts:
  • software is replacing people as the primary point of contact with your business; the UI you present is analogous to the body language, stance, attitude of the people that used to be client-facing (Cooper)
  • software now touches all aspects of business; therefore software management is now more important strategically than finance, manufacturing, shipping, etc (which Cooper now suggests are essentially hygienic)
  • the true worth of a corporation is held in off-balance-sheet assets... the "people, technology, information, processes, corporate culture, brand recognition, management capability..." (Drucker)
  • "The critical feature of a knowledge workforce is that its workers are not labor, they are capital. And what is decisive in the performance of capital is not its cost, but its productivity." (Drucker)
  • geeks create a meritocratic subculture, based solely on technical skill, which they will value above all else; "The top geek commands influence and respect, not power" (Paul Glen)
  • conventional management structures, with manager who understand neither geeks nor the challenges they face, force geeks to lie to management to keep them happy (Cooper)
  • "developers" can be divided into interaction designers (what to build), design engineers (how to build it), and production engineers (built it on time, according to plan); each group is motivated differently, and should have separate career paths (Cooper)
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 4:35 PM GIS , Software Development | Back to top


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