The trend in IT: focus shifts from process to people


RelaisMany people that have been around for some time in the IT business tend to feel a little bit puzzled nowadays. “The IT world is changing but what does that mean for me?” Join me in this blog post to look into the trends and how they affect an IT person.

Have you noticed that every decade has its own focus in the computer business? The eighties were about new technological possibilities, e.g. the introduction of the PC. The nineties were about using IT to support daily activities, e.g. using a word-processor instead of a typewriter. The zeroes were about getting connected – the internet came to every house. And the current decade is about ubiquitous IT – everything is connected.

But I noticed that creating applications has followed an unchanged pattern all through these decades. When I started in the IT business over three decades ago it was all about the process we had to follow to reach success, and in later decades it was still about process. I noticed that sometimes projects were very successful, whereas other projects were a disaster (and many projects worked out sort of well). If we compare those projects to sports, they were organized like the decathlon, everybody doing their own little thing on their own little playground and passing through the baton to each other. I started wondering why there was a difference in the success rate for projects even though they all used a similar approach. Obviously the process was not the differentiator.

Currently times are rapidly changing. IT watchers discovered that a good process in itself doesn’t bring success. The real key to success is… People! This marks the current trend in IT, less emphasis on process and more room for the initiative of people. People are flexible, adaptive, and agile. People can adjust their behavior to a new context, especially when people get the trust and confidence of stakeholders to work together and pursue the project goals in the way the team thinks most appropriate. Making the comparison to sports again, nowadays IT is seen as a team sport – everybody in the team has complementary and overlapping skills that result in the famous statement “1 + 1 = 3”. Teams that are empowered in this way can move mountains, so to say. And working together in a good team also is much more fun 😉

More and more organizations recognize this trend in IT – less process, more empowered people. But, you may ask yourself, what does this mean for me? Forget your nice function title and your official role. In this new world of empowered teams it’s all about your skills. Every team needs a mix of skills and you must contribute by applying the unique skills you have. Skills may be in all sorts of professional and personal areas, don’t think from professional restrictions anymore. Someone who used to be called “analyst” may now just as well contribute by writing some code, a “tester” may contribute to the designs and a “developer” will also do testing activities. Applying a process whenever necessary is just one of the skills the team members need to possess. Another skill is to change the process if that is better, do retrospectives, and actually use the feedback to continuously improve in the spirit of “kaizen”.

Success is based on the mix of skills from people that don’t bother about the title on their business card, but work together and pick up the most important task that is waiting! So don’t let a process limit your success, but work together with inspired colleagues in an empowered team to achieve more success!

Rik Marselis


Rik Marselis is principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands. He has assisted many organizations in improving their IT-processes, in establishing their quality & testing approach, setting up their quality & test organization, and he acted as quality coach, qa-consultant, test manager and quality supervisor. Rik uses his more than 40 years of experience in systems development and quality and testing to bring fit for purpose solutions to our clients. He focuses at three major tasks: * Consultancy on Quality engineering & Testing in the broadest sense (quality & test policy, project startup, process improvement, coaching, second-opinions, etc…) * Develop and give training courses for both novice and experienced testers (Rik is an accredited trainer for TMAP, TPI and ISTQB certification training courses) * Research and development of the quality engineering & testing profession. Rik has contributed to over 20 books on quality and testing, of which 5 as an main author and 5 as project leader. His most recent book in the TMAP body of knowledge is “Quality for DevOps teams”. Rik is a much-appreciated keynote-speaker and workshop-host at conferences (he has presented at conferences in over 15 countries).

More on Rik Marselis.

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  1. Michael Bolton August 21, 2014 Reply

    I applaud this post.

    I’d offer one little refinement: it might be worthwhile to distinguish between process (what actually happens) and process models, which are representations of what happens. Like all models, process models are simplifications. Like all models, process models are at risk of being oversimplifications, leaving out important things and being wrong in specific contexts.

    Process models are heuristic tools that can help us to observe, contextualize, and refine processes. But like all heuristics, they are potentially powerful when applied by people with judgement and skill; dangerous when followed by the inattentive or the unskilled. If more people paid more attention to observing our processes and engaging with them, and somewhat less attention to following process models, we’ll be a long way towards getting better work done.

    Thank you for the post, Rik.

    —Michael B.