Why SCM is not sexy, and SCM-ers are nerds

Software development is inherently difficult. One of the reasons is that computers are inherently stupid and persistent in doing the same thing over and over again. Computers do exactly what they are told (programmed) to do, regardless of whether that is what you expect them to do. They are not human! To make computers do what you expect them to do, you need to be very meticulous and persisting in telling them what to do and how to do it.

Software configuration management is also inherently difficult. One of the reasons is that people are inherently clever and flexible in doing the things differently every time. People do what they think they must do, regardless of whether that is what you expect them to do. They are not computers! To make people do what you expect them to do, you need to be very convincing and careful in telling them what to do and how to do it.
Another reason is that software configuration management has a lot to do with computer systems, which are inherently stupid and persistent. You need to be very meticulous and persisting in telling them what to do and how to do it.

Try being meticulous and persisting in telling people what to do and the effect will be exactly opposite of what you might expect: resistance against your attempts to convince them of anything.

“computers cannot be convinced and people cannot be programmed”

A software configuration manager needs to be blessed with both talents to be really successful in SCM. But these skills are almost opposites, so the combination of both in a single person is rare.
Many SCM-ers like writing scripts, setting up and adjusting SCM tools and processes, performing software integrations and builds reporting results on websites and tuning systems performs and interactions with other systems. These SCM-ers are systems oriented, skilled with abstraction and logic. If they are good are likely to become the technical nerds of an organization.
Other SCM-ers like working with people, communicating, coaching, leading, defining strategies, giving trainings and presentations, coordinating the work in projects and process improvements. These SCM-ers are people oriented, skilled with social intelligence. If they are good they are likely to become the inspirator to bring the organization on a higher professional level. This group of SCM-ers is considerably smaller since they are likely to move on to other – more respected and better payed – jobs.
And finally, there is the extremely small group of SCM-ers with skills at both ends of the spectrum. They have a large interests in systems, structure, organization and tools, and at the same time a strong urge to inspire people, coach, guide and lead them.

Now if its true that the majority of the SCM-ers lack the necessary social skills to “sell” SCM and many people needing SCM lack the necessary technical skills to “buy” SCM (from these non-sellers), then its not so surprising that SCM is not seen as a popular profession.

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About Frank Schophuizen (fschop)

Hi, my name is Frank Schophuizen and I am working as a consultant in CM, Agile and ALM for TOPIC Embedded Systems. I have over 30 years experience in software development in the technology industry, with the last 15 years mainly in process improvement, deployment and integration of methods and tools in the area of CM, Agile development and ALM. I am strongly interested in the complexities of collaboration and integrations in multi-project and multi-site organizations. I have worked with various technology companies such as Philips, ASML, NXP and Vanderlande, and with various tool vendors such as IBM Rational (e.g. ClearCase, Synergy, Jazz products) as well as open source tools (e.g. SVN, Git, Jenkins, Trac, Eclipse). I am living in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, with my wife. We have 3 adult children. My main hobbies are classical music and photography.
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