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Over the past 2 years, we have built us a decent team of developers. The CEO of the company and myself have been working closing to make sure we are moving done a good path. As our department as grown, I've been telling the owner we need a manager/director over us that understands technology, but can lead the company on more of the business aspects of running an interactive development shop.

He's gone out and done just that, I didn't get to meet the man before his first day, but quickly got his CV. He had owned a company in the late 90's that was bought out and has been working as a consultant since then. Most of his knowledge was in large corporate systems. We build web applications and sites for medium sized companies. And that is where the issues are starting to crop up.

He's brought up on several occasions our need to switch to Flash, Oracle and J++ for the sites and applications we are building. Versus the LAMP stack we are using now for 90% of our development. The new guy is very smart when it comes to the business side of technical projects, but he is trying to lead the technical direction. And he and I aren't seeing eye-to-eye for a couple of upcoming projects.


Now, I don't want to go into the issues with those comments. I want to ask how I, as the Senior Developer, can work with our new Director to ensure the success of our department within this company. While also keeping our developers happy, and working with the technologies that we enjoy, and are comfortable with.

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J++? Wasnt that discontinued years ago? Or is there a different product by that name now? –  GrandmasterB Jul 18 '11 at 5:27
It was, in 2004. Dropped in favor of C#. Last Visual Studio to include it was 6.0 released in 1998 –  Ryan Gibbons Jul 18 '11 at 5:29
Is this manager your boss (or boss boss etc), or not? –  user1249 Jul 18 '11 at 5:33
I was really hoping that was a typo. –  GrandmasterB Jul 18 '11 at 5:36
Anyone clueless enough to recommend J++ in this day and age and be serious has no business making any kind of technical decisions at all. –  Wayne M Oct 17 '11 at 15:19

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I haven't been on this situation, but it seems to me that your problem has two parts:

  1. The new director thinks development experience is an easily interchangeable commodity, therefore switching to 'better' technologies has very little cost.

  2. He thinks some technologies are simply 'better' or 'more professional' than others, so there's no excuse to be using 'lesser' ones.

Personally, for problem 1, I would try to use business language. The obvious approach would be to explain that your experience and tools are a significant asset. Simply switching to anything else would turn everybody into a newbie in the new technology, diminishing the company's value.

Problem 2 might be harder, since it's easy for him to find success stories for his preferred technologies; even some that seem to apply perfectly to your case (switching from PHP to foobar creates huge leap in productivity/performance/whatever). Almost any counterexample you bring up could be thrown away with "facebook is investing millions in moving away from LAMP, we better escape sooner rather than later".

If he was a fully rational person (nobody is, not even developers), a good approach could be to make some realistic estimates of some projected scale when the current architecture falls down and some good solutions to apply when you get there. But in reality, that would only validate his point, since you're admitting that there's a point where his advice is best, and getting there is a goal.

So, again, I fear the only successful (and maybe the most honest) approach is to calculate and evaluate the real monetary advantages of your approach. Specifically, how much cheaper to your clients your solution is. Calcuate licensing costs, hosting overheads, developers availability and average wages, etc. If done correctly, it could not only validate your choices, but it might suggest new approaches to your business models.... or it could validate his point, in which case you should be prepared to plan on how to do what is really best for the business, even if you didn't like it at first sight.

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Money talks. Your development team is skilled one way. He wants you to move another way. He will have to provide significant training and cost-justify this (and the licence costs) to his boss.

You will probably need to hire an Oracle DBA and they do not come cheap.

Don't be aggressive but do gently question where the benefit to the company lies in changing technology. He may have a solid justification & workable vision, he may have enough clout politically to push it through in which case you get tons of training. Change is not necessarily bad & free Oracle / Java training isn't to be sniffed at.

He may just want to use the tech stack he knew and expects you & your team to train yourselves in your spare time in which case you might want to start looking for a new job. Although I'd start by talking to the CEO using your past relationship: "The team's not happy with the new architectural direction, we might lose a few good developers and that will make it hard to support our existing systems" etc.

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It sounds like he has some relevant knowledge, you say he's smart, I'd also guess that he'd be reasonable.

It seems he wants to move to an area where he is more comfortable and you want to stay in an area where you are more comfortable.

It's time to set aside comfort and get some data so that you can make a real and informed decision.

Butting heads over this isn't productive, giving his opinions a chance and looking at all the costs and benefits together will give you a chance to build your working relationship and will also give him a better overview of where your group stands and how you work.

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This is a very common problem. And its a very serious case of disrepect and arrogance. What he's saying is, essentially, his reading of a couple of articles in Business Week makes him more knowledgable than the professionals who have been studying, working, and living the technologies in question for many years. Would he second guess a medical doctor? Probably not.

I would use his J++ suggestion that as the basis for claiming he has no business making technical decisions. Because obviously he doesnt. Point out that the language has been dead for 7 years. And thus all your hard work would be for nothing if your company made the dreadfully stupid mistake of switching to it, only to find out that the next version of windows couldnt run programs written in it. Which there is a darn good chance of because its no longer being updated. And thats why these kinds of decisions should be made by actual technical professionals, not monkeys in suits. (no offense meant to monkeys)

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This. The argument could be made that a switch to Java/Oracle might be worth it (without knowing anything about the OP's business) but to have anyone say "We need to use J++!" and not be trolling you would make me immediately think they are a complete and total idiot with zero clue of any developments in the past decade. –  Wayne M Oct 17 '11 at 15:18

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