Leadership can bridge the User-Developer gap

Leadership can bridge the User-Developer gap

David Tuffley (Griffith University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-507-0.ch003
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The application of Socio-Technical theory seeks to improve the alignment between the technical and social sub-systems that comprise organisations. The developers who create the technical systems and the people who use the systems are manifestations of the socio-technical dynamic. Yet a gap exists between these two groups that create a sometimes strong dynamic tension that is a worthy subject for research. Despite many years of study, practical solutions to the User-Developer gap still seem elusive. This chapter explores the nature of the gap, and proposes a leadership model that improves the capabilities of project managers and team members to bridge the gap.
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Review Of User-Developer Cultural Differences

Chen et al, (2009) observe that users and developers have differing world-views that leads to difficulties in arriving at an accurate and comprehensive set of user requirements. They suggest that effective coordination between these stakeholders can mitigate the risks of developing software based on incomplete requirements (Chen et al, 2009). Effective models of co-ordination might therefore include a leadership model that enhances the management capability of project managers by adding the persuasive element of leadership to the mix (Tuffley, 2009, 2010). Such a model might also be used to good effect by team members o develop closer cooperation and higher performance. This paper outlines such a model.

Organisational culture is a useful context and perspective within which to explore the nature of the User-Developer gap. Culture is an organization’s way of thinking about the world and itself, how to get things done, how to solve problems. Software developers living in a world of technology have their own cultures, their own deeply ingrained ways of doing things. Such a culture might find it difficult to readily understand, much less embrace the seemingly foreign culture of the business user, with their unfamiliar priorities, preoccupations, and ways of doing things. It is a case of ‘same planet, different worlds’.

An organisation develops is own unique culture over time, evolving through the stresses and strains of its day-to-day operations. And awareness of the mechanisms of organisational culture may well be limited. People simply go about their jobs in the way they have become accustomed to, and do not think much about it until an external threat to their security and continued existence is perceived. Having evolved more or less effective ways of protecting itself and getting on with business, a problem arises when IS project management is encouraged to use processes like Joint Application Development and Participative Design. Developers are often reluctant to do participative systems development because it is seen to be expensive and time-consuming (Feeny, Earl and Edwards, 1996).

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