Business Knowledge Beats Technical Skill

Most of the value of an IT developer comes from his knowledge of the business. His knowledge of specific programming languages or tools comes a distant second. With AI-supported development tools like Copilot, this value balance becomes even more skewed towards business skills.

That’s why I’m appalled every time I see yet another company replacing hundreds of skilled IT professionals. I’ll grant you that some organizations have too many people and might need to trim their headcount. But often, organizations are trying to kickstart a digital transformation by replacing old hands with a crowd of bright-eyed young things with the latest buzzwords on their CV.

Getting a new crew with better tools and techniques means you can build software faster. But by getting rid of the experienced people, you lose your ability to build the right software. Moving slowly in the right direction beats running fast in the wrong direction.

This 47-Year-Old Classic Will Improve Your IT Skills

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who know who Fred Brooks was and those who don’t. If you are an IT professional in the second group, you can step up your game dramatically by reading his seminal book “The Mythical Man-Month.”

Fred Brooks managed IBM System/360, the project that produced the first real general-purpose computer back in the 1960s. He distilled his experience from this 5,000-man-year project into the first edition of TMMM in 1975 and the expanded anniversary edition from 1995 stands on my bookshelf. When I meet other experienced IT architects, as at Software Architecture Open Space in Copenhagen this month, people will use phrases like “second-system effect” that originated with Brooks. He passed away yesterday after a long and productive life full of accolades.

To commemorate Fred Brooks, I’m inviting you to join a series of online discussions on IT best practices and what we can still learn from The Mythical Man-Month. We’ll meet on Zoom every Thursday at 5 pm CET = 11 am EST = 8 am PST. We’ll discuss one chapter from the book and how it applies to our work in IT today. I expect each meeting will be 30-60 minutes, and we’ll record it for those who can’t make it. We start next Thursday, November 24. Sign up here: