One of the things that has been bothering me for some time is why many IT departments seem more reluctant to automate their own processes than those in other parts of the business. For instance, it is typically easier to get approval to hire more testers than it is to license test automation tools. Similarly, data integration vendors consistently report that their biggest competitor is hand coding. And that hasn’t changed for a decade. The same is true for archiving though that is now starting to change, thanks to the use of Hadoop. And think of data masking as another example. And, no doubt, a whole bunch of other automated solutions.
Why is this? The simple answer is that developers clearly think they know best even when they obviously don’t. But is there more to it than that?
I’ve just got back from an IBM conference in the States. One of the presenters (panellist actually) was a representative from “Girls Who Code”. This is an organisation, which is sponsored by IBM, which is dedicated to getting more women into the IT workforce and, specifically, works to encourage young women to take computer science degrees. The spokeswoman for Girls Who Code had some interesting statistics to give us. One was that in the 1980s 37% of computer science graduates in the USA were women. Today that figure is 12%. She also told us that the States has fewer female developers per capita that either Bulgaria or Cuba. While not to denigrate either of the latter countries these figures are, frankly, a disgrace. I don’t suppose they are a whole lot better in the UK.
So, why are these figures so low? Why have they dropped so much? The representative from Girls Who Code suggested that this is, at least in part, because development shops have increasingly adopted a macho culture. Where this is true—and it won’t be everywhere—this is going to be a vicious circle: the more macho the culture the less likely women will want to work there and the more macho it will get.
But this brings me back to my earlier point of developers thinking they know better. Well, that’s pretty obvious if you’ve got a macho—or perhaps I should say “overly competitive”—culture: in that sort of environment nobody is going to accept that some third party could do a better job than they can.
So, how do you get development shops to recognise that it might be sensible to implement some automation? You can impose it from on high and you can implement change management programmes but at least one part of that question must be to encourage a more gender balanced workforce. Perhaps other vendors, apart from IBM, who are trying to market products into IT departments might consider sponsoring Girls Who Code and any other similar initiatives (I hope there are some) in other countries: I see it as a win-win situation.