Relations – are about half of IT

You can’t have IT projects without relations. Relations matter more than it seem.

Recently I had an online call with the adults around the 14yo: An autism psychiatrist, the school guide/trainer, their mom and I. Online on teams, obviously. The other adults in the call were struggling with all the online schooling and interaction, and no face-to-face with the young student. Besides all the stress of the pandemic they had a hard time working at all.

To me online meetings are a natural way of working. I have been working primarily through online interactions the last five years or so. The people I work with are distributed away from me, they are in Copenhagen, China, Philippines and other places. It seems the teaching industry broadly has to catch up with the lessons and tricks from the IT industry. Besides the stress of the pandemic and lockdowns IT people can actually do their work. So I mentioned that I only work online.

And the psychiatrist said, but for IT people relationships aren’t so important.

… oh …

Relations matter in IT projects

The psychiatrist probably doesn’t know the inside of an IT project, and are probably only aware of the City IT staff when something is not working or they are rolling out yet another upgrade of their systems. So to them it seems that IT is all about the deliveries – not so much about the relationships. (to bad really)

On the inside of IT projects, relationships are about half of the story – the actual IT thing is the other half. For the clear and simple things relations matter less (the commoditized, as Wardley would point out). When you think about it, IT have a huge range of models and frameworks around the relationship part: Cynefin, Agile Manifesto, Scrum, Team Topologies etc. The more you move around on Cynefin the more relations matters.

3D version from Rob England Cognitive Edge

Relations are obviously important to line managers, coaches, lead roles and people in enablement roles. But for the individual contributors in the teams – relations matter too. First of all, time has run out for the expert douche bags and hero culture. Everyone talks about the whole team approach to quality.

Secondly the research from the Accelerate is clear – besides all the mechanics of delivering IT – the culture of the workplace impacts the business performance. Lastly, when you look at incentives for the individual, the non-monetary matters are becoming a key differentiator. Especially given the pandemic – gone are the bro culture of foosball tables. What’s hot is work from home, team diversity, moral practices and a decent team culture.

There will be a trend in the future, that changes the IT office landscape yet again. The best teams will meet online for some of the work – and join in collaboration spaces or getaways for alignment. Because even for IT work relationships matter – and at the end of the pandemic even we will adjourn in our teams.

5 thoughts on “Relations – are about half of IT

  1. […] Named and nurtured tests with explicit steps and specific test data on all test cases are are a sign of a team stuck thinking that all problems can be solved with more and more specification and detailed up front design. We have seen numerous times that this is not how you build trust and collaboration – nor when handling systems that are not stable – nor when the subject matter experts test. You cannot structure yourself out of a complex situation. […]


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