Stressful Working in IT – It Needn’t Be | UK Contractors

Stressful Working in IT
Stressful working in IT

Stressful Working With Constant Deadlines


I saw an article the other day that said how stressful it was to work in call centres, but it is stressful working in IT with its constant deadlines.

At the top level of a company everything is financial.

All the pressures are financial. This translates, at project level, to time pressures.

That’s why they break everything up into time components. Itr’s why the project manager comes round every Monday morning to see what progress there is.

Project Schedule

If you are behind schedule (which most people are), then you start to hide this fact. You allocate time to tasks that you haven’t started yet.

When it becomes obvious that you can’t hide any more that you are behind schedule, you hand over your work before you are completely happy with it. As sure as night follows day, it starts to fall over in link testing, systems testing or User Acceptance Testing. It is very stressful working in IT.

Deadlines Don’t Work

One of the world’s great experts on project productivity, Barry Boehm, of Cocomo fame, once calculated project productivity according to whoever estimated the tasks.

  1. If a programmer’s supervisor estimated the task, productivity was 6.

  2. If the programmer himself, or herself, estimated the task, productivity was 7.

  3. If the analyst who wrote the specification estimated the task the productivity was 8.

  4. If there was no estimate at all the productivity was 11.

This is not surprising. Parkinson’s law and the fact that there is ‘nothing in it’ for developers to finish ahead of schedule. This means that tasks either finish on time or late.

Allocating time to tasks, therefore, does no one any good at all. As we can see above, the company would get better productivity if there was no estimate for the task at all. It would be less stressful too.

Project Schedules are Counter Productive

Of course, companies must have a schedule.

However, it is counter-productive to let their developers actually know what it is.

There are many reasons for this, most of them psychological. Time pressure is oppressive and stressful.

It causes stress for those working under it and so they don’t perform as well.

As a manager if you can make it so that your people look forward to coming to work every day, then that is half your job.

User Acceptance Testing

As said before, the time pressure causes people to hand over their work before they are completely happy with it.

Studies have shown that the earlier in a project that errors are spotted the cheaper it is to fix them – and the differences in cost in time are huge between finding a problem in the analysis stage compared to finding it in User Acceptance Testing or even Production.

The costs to fix a problem mount dramatically all the way down the line.

Time pressure pushes the place where problems are identified further down the line, putting extreme pressure on project deadlines, budgets and system quality. It is stressful on those who work on the project.

Better Project Productivity

Studies have also shown that when you compare the extra productivity that you can get from better tools, better development methods, and better able people, then it is people that come out top, and by a long way from better methods and then better tools.

Companies seem to spend most of their time implementing better tools and better development methodologies to improve productivity when they would gain a much greater dividend from looking for ways to increase the morale and the ability to deliver of their project workers.

Better training is one way to increase the productivity of your people, but a less stressful environment, taking away some of the time pressure would increase productivity too.

Happier, Less Stressful, Workers

It would be a bonus for the employee to work in a less stressful environment.

As our productivity figures show, it would also be a great bonus for the company too, if they look for ways to make their workforce happier, and their regime less stressful.

Management will still be able to separate the wheat from the chaff as they’ll know what the schedule is and they can see who is performing and who isn’t.

The carrot has always been more powerful than the stick.

Can you see many companies operating this way, even if it has been shown that they will get better productivity?

Not likely!

Barry Boehm’s Studies

Despite all the talk about ‘our people being our greatest asset’ most companies really take the attitude that if you’re not keeping your eye on the buggers, they’re not working, despite the fact that it has been shown that when you give people responsibility they generally act responsibly.

So, despite Barry Boehm’s studies which show that productivity increases without stressful deadlines, I’ve never been to a company that didn’t have deadlines for each task in the project.

That makes it mores stressful working in IT.

Has anyone else seen this happening?



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