20 problems experienced by Software Development Managers and Engineers with a poor SDLC

If you are or thinking of getting involved in Software Development Management and the Systems Development Life cycle (SDLC) take a look at the top 20 problems experienced by Software Development Managers and Software Engineers when the SDLC is managed poorly and without training. Untrained staff getting involved in making technical decisions causes the most common problems in struggling and/or failing software development and software engineering projects.

  1. No time allocated for good design and architecture
  2. Code becomes unreadable and unmaintainable
  3. Code is disorganized limiting amount of software engineers and/or changes to be active at any time.
  4. Makes full and patch releases difficult or impossible without severe downtime or refactoring of code.
  5. Lack of support for multiple streams i.e. production and new development – versioning. Lack of knowledge how versioning works. Development processes overlap into production processes.
  6. Simple configuration or system administration requires a code change not variable/parameter change.
  7. Makes change extremely difficult – not scalable or object orientated.
  8. Duplication of solutions i.e. not sharing such as application and hardware servers
  9. Lack of integration with related projects
  10. Makes releases extremely difficult i.e. No thought how to release the project – to many manual processes in a release. Releases take several hours and even days. Build an object to large to get through the door.
  11. Lack of necessary documentation or to much unnecessary documentation
  12. No or very little enterprise development, testing, or security standards
  13. Crunch testing – development overruns into time allocated for testing, testing reduced.
  14. Scope creep
  15. Lack of clear input and output at each step.
  16. Lack of clear ownership and accountability
  17. Constantly changing release dates – forward and backward
  18. Inability to deal with late requests
  19. Pressure from business to implement change fast. Management scheduling without understanding impact and risk
  20. Inability of IT to explain and the business to understand the intricate nature of technology projects.

All the above points can be solved by a trained Software Development Manager. Don’t manage what you don’t understand and make the same mistakes – get trained. A Software Development Manager is not just a people manager. They are also the one in the middle who resolves conflicts and maintains relationships and integrations between project managers, product owners, scrum-masters involvement with software development – both technical and people management.

That is why I coach, train, and mentor new and upcoming Software Development Managers. Don’t make the same mistakes that have been made by countless others since the inception of software development and engineering.

Internationally experienced software engineers and managers add value

They gain exposure to projects they could not have in their home countries. 

When I was in the UK, we had many Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, and many others work on such projects.  With small projects or smaller populations such as Australia and New Zealand, it is important to have jack-of-all-trades, that is people who are multi-skilled.  That doesn’t mean they were not also highly specialised.  Likewise, larger projects and larger populations such as the UK, Germany, France, US, and China can afford more specialised people.  We gave exposure to large projects they didn’t often have at home – and they were inspiring us to be more multi-skilled.  As a result, the international market opened up with my new multi-skilled ability. 

There are large and complex projects, and small and simple.  There are a variety of project and product types.  It is rare if anyone can find such experience in one location. Working with or being an international software engineer has great benefits for knowledge transfer.

They also have a wider exposure to a variety of tools, processes, and technologies and at different stages of maturity.

Software engineers without international experience often focus on knowing software engineering trends for their country very well but less on what is happening globally – they may re-invent the wheel or not be knowledgeable about the latest worldwide trends.  International software engineers can bring new ideas to the table with knowledge & capability to compare & contrast from experience in variety of countries. It makes them more efficient and ultimately more strategic with their time as they pick from the best tools, process, and technology. 

Each country is at a different stage of its growth and cycle.  Legacy software in developed countries is often greenfield projects in developing countries.  Some countries are moving forwards with large legislation changes such as in financial trading, import and export, or taxation. Eventually each country will at some point go through the same process and need these internationally experienced software engineers to save re-inventing the wheel.

They have learnt more about team building and leadership working with a variety and mix of cultures. 

Team structure and reporting line can be very different between countries.  Across UK and Europe, the structure is often very flat

  1. Board
  2. IT Director
  3. Software Engineering Manager
  4. Software Engineer. 

In Canada it can be

  1. Board
  2. VP/CIO
  3. AVP Software Engineering
  4. Director of Software Engineering
  5. Assistant Director
  6. Software Engineering Manager
  7. Software Engineer. 

Even the well-known methodologies of agile and waterfall are modified to match local culture.  Some cultures prefer micro-managing and others more trusting – the international software engineer quickly adapts and knows when local culture trumps any favouritism to waterfall or agile.  

Places such as UK, Europe, Asia, and the US have no problems with a foreigner in a leadership position allowing the teams and leaders to flourish without borders.  A few do not allow that and teams stay stuck in their old ways – especially in a culture that micromanages more than they trust.  I have worked as a software engineer or software engineering manager in over 30 countries and it is the countries and their cultures that have inclusion and diversity that permits foreigners in leadership that flourish the most.  There is one “developed” country that will not even permit foreigners to call themselves a software engineer or teacher of software engineering, unless they were educated in that country, nor will they permit them beyond role of developer or computer programmer. It is no wonder that country had many examples of old tools, processes, and technology and struggled to fill them. This reluctance to be inclusive led to sales and administration staff being “drafted” into IT roles


Overcoming challenges when team members have different ideas, opinion, and methodology on a solution is one of the most important skills for a software engineer or manager.  Internationally experienced can do so when cultural differences exist too.  They know the right questions to ask, and when to listen.  They too have learnt to quickly adapt to other cultures and working styles.  Software engineers and managers with international experience have proven they are courageous enough to step outside their comfort zone and quick to learn on their feet.  Including them in homegrown teams is a must to transfer that knowledge.  Teams that don’t struggle when they have to work with overseas teams – or continue in ways that the rest of the world no longer uses.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Let the software engineering team build and recruit the team

It was once quite straightforward to recruit software engineers.  As resume’s arrived HR sent them to the hiring Software Engineering Manager who forwarded them to senior software engineers.  They scanned them for obvious yeas or nays. Yeas were called by HR for interview ASAP with the Software Engineering Team.  If yeas were good, they got an offer and didn’t wait for a closing date before starting to interview.  It wasn’t unusual from interview to verbal offer to be within 24 hours or the time between application and offer to be within one week.  We rarely lost a great software engineer due to process. When somebody was right we closed the deal.

The world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is to choose the best parts to cast that net.  We can learn a lot from fisherman.  The way we build and recruit our team is all determined by our chosen fishing grounds and the bait we use.

A complaint from HR today is there are too many applicants – and they have automated tracking systems (ATS) to make filtering easier.  Applicants now work extremely hard to customize resumes for the ATS search algorithm.  Before there were just as many software engineers looking for work and they had little customization to do to their resumes.  They were read by software experts who understood them.  We never had such a deluge of resumes even during hard times. Why is that?  What did we do that was different?

Software engineering managers wrote well targeted job descriptions (JD’s) for a specific job title, function, and experience level which included a salary range – they used recognized descriptive terms.  They selected who to invite for interview.  Only software engineers with the majority of requirements and happy with the salary applied.  It let software engineers know they were a good fit, and software engineering teams know only those who were likely good fits apply. That limited the resumes from 100’s to 10’s. We got to the ideal software engineers in one or two steps.  Equally important software engineers could target the employers that wanted them and not waste time on employers with unclear JD’s.

Today’s JD’s are written by HR have fanciful non-standard job titles such as ninja and superhero.  They are not what software engineers search on.  The requirements cover every function and experience level in a software engineering department – and more.  They also have no salary range.  Now anyone with just a fraction of what is being asked applies – because they don’t really know what is wanted but it may be them.  We have a deluge of mainly unsuitable resumes.  HR use ATS to filter software engineers on non-software-engineering criteria to get resumes down to a manageable number.  In that filtering we lose great software engineers.  Often those who get through the ATS are unsuitable or if not decline when they discover the real JD and salary.  The best drop through the net and ghosted – because they didn’t use the right customization to get through the ATS.  It now takes many steps and much longer to find software engineers.

A carefully constructed JD targeting the specific software engineer we are after will encourage the correct person and no more to apply – and less steps in the interview process.  Broad JD’s get a broad response and difficult to filter.  The ATS could be used to much greater fruition if we only fed it suitable applicants.

I normally get JD’s between 20 and 30 lines – I have seen them 100’s of lines long.  Here is what I use in a JD to keep it short and get who I need:

  • Employer Name – links to employers’ site for more information, don’t put all the organization stuff in the JD as it hides the job.
  • Location – Be specific. Using neighboring cities to attract applicants not wanting to travel wastes time.
  • Job Description – use recognized descriptive terms and avoid internal, domain specific terms so you don’t have to describe them.
    • Department (or job function)
    • Job type (full time, part time etc.)
    • Job Title
    • Seniority level
    • Seniority level reporting to:
    • Salary range
    • Qualifications and Skills – List only the hard and soft skills, languages, and technologies used and level of importance. Don’t add qualifications or skills that are a standard part of that job title and seniority level.
    • Summary – project types, team size, culture, methodologies, main appeals of the job and what makes it unique. List any responsibilities and duties that are in addition to recognized job title and seniority level.
    • Benefits – vacation, retirement savings etc.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels


Team Building and Recruitment Strategy

Team building and recruitment for software engineers is part of the Software Development Managers job.  These are some of the “non-techie” and “soft skills” I look for when building a team.  Most cannot be identified by an ATS.

A carefully constructed and updated job description written by a Software Development Manager or Software Engineer for a specific job can target specific candidates – unlike some of todays “capture whole department” JD’s written by non-techies.   We never had a problem before reducing applicant amount using accurate JD’s, and filtering them by eye.  I would say we had a better outcome as great candidates always get to the front of the line.  It is imperative that the Software Development Manager and their team(s) are involved at all stages of recruitment.

Project Size and Complexity

For small projects it is important to have jack-of-all-trades, that is people who are multi-skilled but for larger projects specialized people in each area become more and more important.

We also need to consider the size and complexity of the project, and the time it will most likely take to complete.  There will be peaks and troughs in effort required and dependencies between tasks.  To fill these peaks and troughs it would be foolish and expensive to recruit more permanent staff – unless they can be re-allocated from elsewhere in the organization. If the resources are from the existing resource pool then there are no real risks but should you employ someone specifically for the project you need to consider local employment rights legislation.

Qualified or unqualified, Academic or Experienced?

Qualification is used by HR and ATS’s and filters out experienced candidates.  A Software Development Manager can see real experience with or without qualification in a resume or interview.  I also hold the view that qualification alone is not useful unless we have real experiences and there are people with experience but no qualification.

Academics can pass tests but have little if any practical experience to solve real life problems, whereas, experienced people have real-life practical experience and may find tests suited to academics harder – but given a real-world test will flourish.

We need experience and ability, but also responsibility to give newcomers a chance, therefore, we must balance the team, and we may require two interview strategies to do so.

Domain Specific or Global?

Domain specific software engineers focus on knowing software engineering for one industry very well.  Global Software Engineers bring new ideas to the table.  If we stuck with just domain specific software engineers, we are likely to get stuck in our ways – and create our own skills crisis.  Again, we can balance the team with both.  If we recruit from one domain we lose lots of opportunity to grow.

Pragmatic, Evangelist, or Zealot

With doubt pragmatic’s as they are guided by practical considerations than by ideals of any tool, process, or technology.  They will know the time when to implement a quick or elegant and robust solution, and most likely to see a balance between practicality and perfection.  Evangelist can be an excellent choice for a change program.

Skeptics or Optimists

Optimists assume their code will never fail and reduce testing to match, whereas, Skeptics will test far more thoroughly.

Asks questions?

Great Software Engineers question and constructively criticize a plan if it doesn’t make sense. Others do word for word whatever you say without question.  We need those who come forward – but we should accept responsibility as a manager to ensure we also give opportunity for them to come forward and not reject them.

Can take the rough with the smooth

Many software engineers love to write new code – but few loves to debug.  Fewer will want to debug someone else’s code.  Great software engineers even if not enjoying the task will dive in and resolve the bug – even if it wasn’t theirs.

After much time solving a problem with a particular tool, process, or technology evidence arises showing others are or even were better.  A great software engineer knows when to press the rest button and admit when being wrong

Many are fans of waterfall or agile but not both but a time may arise when a short project using the other came along.   Great Software Engineers will get on with it

Many like to work on the latest technology but there are times when we have to maintain legacy software.  Again, great Software Engineers will just do it.


It is very easy to exclude and create a skills crisis where none existed by being to specific with qualifications and domain requirements. We can also create problems in the team spirit if we recruit non-team players such as zealots or those that cannot take the rough with the smooth.  We need also to look at where a candidate and employer can collaborate with the candidate bringing new ideas to the table, and the employer offering the candidate a chance of new experiences.

There is a lot more to team building and recruitment that an ATS can cope with. Only a Software Development Manager or Software Engineer has ability to extract this information with discussion.


Empowering Software Engineers

One of the most difficult things for leaders to do is trust its software engineers to do what they do best – often because they don’t understand software engineering and always think the wool is being pulled over their eyes. They get a little knowledge and micro-manage.

We need to let the software engineers do what they do best. Software engineering as an art and a science. Have you ever noticed how you slow down and make mistakes when someone is looking over your shoulder? Artists make mistakes, they erase things, and begin again. Scientists make and break things, they use and refine calculations until they get perfection. That is also how software engineers work.

My course on Software Development Management will give you the Knowledge & experience to promote Teams that are:

  • self-managing
  • self-organizing

I can provide you the knowledge to be a Leader of high performing organized Software Development Teams using traditional or agile methods to:

  • trust to make decisions
  • value their opinion and expertise
  • listen more and talk less to value their expertise
  • give them breathing space to make mistakes – that is how people learn.
  • be efficient without compromising quality.
  • reduce costs through automation, reusability, & efficiency.
  • be subject matter experts in the evolutionary control of software using tools, processes, & methodology.

I teach you to understand so the wool cannot be pulled over your eyes – and your team will know that. They will value you, and you will value them. You will know how to recruit, retain, and develop the best team possible.

Hiring Software Engineers Checklist

When hiring I focus on software engineering & mindset which is 90% of the job & cannot be captured by ATS or tests. Discussion with experts will. Language & qualification are secondary. I created this guide to write my job descriptions, scan resumes, & interview to capture what the ATS cannot.

  1. Developer codes single objects. Engineers systems of multiple reusable objects.
  2. Smaller projects a jack-of-all-trades. Larger a specialist in each area.
  3. Qualification alone is no use. Real experience is. Academics can solve tests but not necessarily real problems. Experienced people solve problems but not necessarily tests.
  4. Domain specific know one industry. Others bring new ideas to the table from a variety of domains.
  5. With tools, processes, and technology zealots are fanatical & uncompromising, pragmatists are practical, evangelists seek to convert others to their ideals.
  6. Optimists assume code never fails so reduce tests. Skeptics assume code will fail and increase tests.
  7. Great engineers’ question & constructively criticize. Others do whatever is said without question.
  8. Many love to write new code – but few to debug. Fewer will debug someone else’s.

Academic v Experienced Software Engineers

A while ago, I did a root cause analysis for a Toronto client. They had problems with a software engineering team having the most trivial of tasks always missing deadlines. We found the root cause in recruitment not Software Engineering.

Job descriptions listed academic certifications as must-have. ATS found academic certification but could not convert to equivalent experience. Candidates then subjected to academic tests by HR which were assessed using a third-party. The Software Development Manager was out the loop until HR and ATS had filtered out the experienced. The team was 100% academic and needlessly over complicating solutions.

  • Academics can pass tests but have little if any experience to solve real life problems. Theoretical knowledge often is irrelevant in the workplace.
  • Experienced people have real-life experience and may find tests suited to academics harder – but in the real-world flourish.
  • Academics focus on theoretical perfection even if it doesn’t make a difference.
  • Experienced people focus on what makes a difference to the business.
  • Academics over complicate to prove a theory whereas the experienced simplify to make it economical and efficient.

The solution was the Software Development Manager scanning resume’s after the ATS and HR had their duties reduced to within their capabilities.

Root Cause Analysis

I’ve been asked to do an independent root cause analysis for a client on a software engineering project. It was a leading question as they indicated lack of testing.

In my opinion lack of testing is never the root cause but the penultimate symptom – but the sequence of events that led to a leadership decision for lack of testing is. That is normally buried in the culture and environment – the people, processes, and technology. Lack of testing was the last item to test the other items that failed.

A root cause analysis is often the beginning of a change to a culture or environment. They are often met with resistance that employee’s do not feel comfortable presenting, or feel pressured to lean one way or the other for fear of offending someone. They often default to “lack of testing” as the root cause . As an independent with no “internal politics” to deal with I am free to gather findings without prejudice.

Preventative actions are often training, mentoring, and coaching – oh and sometimes patience because technology when done right can’t be rushed.

Without doubt the two most common features that I find whilst performing a root cause analysis are not lack of testing but:

  • pressure from non-technologists to implement change to fast and scheduling change without first understanding the impact and risk
  • inability of technologists to explain and non-technologists to understand the intricate nature of Software Development Management

You can’t have your cake and eat it

Where are all the Software Development Managers?

Many of the Software Development Manager positions posted today in Greater Toronto Area have been posted consistently since I arrived here some 6 years ago. A similar story is told worldwide. It seems some get filled but 3 or 6 months later the same posting is back. One thing that can help fix that is proper training, mentoring, and coaching by an experienced hand.

Qualification alone is not useful unless we have real experiences is a concept widely expressed by great writers but time and time again we see qualification as the main criteria for selection. The Software Development Manager training combines your qualification with my experience. Qualification tells us someone has the knowledge to do something, experience is proof someone can do it.

You want how young and how much experience?

You want to develop new talent, Generation #, or the Millennial’s but you also want the experience of an expert with 30 years of software development management and software development life cycle (SDLC) experience. It could be that you have a “Women in Leadership”, “Women in Tech”, or “Young Person in Leadership” initiative but to get things moving now you need an expert Software Development Manager regardless of identity to train or mentor them. I’ve seen so many job advertisements asking for just these types of candidates. You can’t have your cake and eat it was my first thought and that is why I reinvented myself as a trainer, mentor, and coach after 30 years in Software Development Management. Now you can have your cake and eat it – but you will have to partner with this boomer to do it.

There is an old Irish proverb that says:-

Wisdom makes a poor man king,
a foolish man reasonable,
and a good generation of a bad one

Delivery Methods

I train, mentor, coach groups or individuals using a variety of delivery methods depending on whether you are local or in the Greater Toronto Area – face-to-face, telephone video conferences, online meetings etc. You can buy a complete course or by the hour consultancy. We can also agree for an amount of time that we I provide further support after the course is completed.

Do you need a shadow?

I can also work as a Consultant Software Development Manager, Director, or VP and work alongside you to train, coach, and mentor you into the position – as a shadow. I will work with you to accomplish everything to do with the Software Development Manager, Director, and/or VP role. Together we will lead high performing organized Software Development Teams using traditional or agile methods.

What else do I offer?

  1. Root Cause Analysis & Expert Witness
  2. Speaking and Writing Engagements
  3. Review and Audit your Software Development Management and SDLC
  4. Provide Professional Opinion and References

Who do I work with?

I can help anyone involved with Software Development Projects – not just the Software Development Manager. This is not about writing code but managing it, answering the why’s, knowing the potential problems and the solutions, how to build teams and get them working, and how to communicate between technologists and non-technologists:

  1. Executives
  2. Entrepreneurs
  3. VP’s
  4. Directors
  5. Managers
  6. Software Engineers and Developers
  7. Sales and Marketing
  8. Anyone involved with Software Development

Prepare for 2020

Get ready for 2020 and kick start you, your employee’s, and your organisations future in Software Development Management. Contact me through LinkedIn or software-development-manager.com and/or send a connection request to get latest updates and mark me for future reference.

Software engineers, programmers, developers, and data scientists – are they all the same?

Today we have many titles for what many believe is essentially one role.  They have evolved over the years into very specific roles of their own.

  1. Programmer/Developer – read and write code which is specified for them.
  2. Analyst & Programmer/Developer – programmer/developer + the ability to specify, design, and document a software component.
  3. Data Scientist – developing methods of creating, updating, reading, deleting and analyzing data. NB: Data Analysts interpret data
  4. Software Engineer – Analyst & Programmer/Developer + Data Scientist + ability to specify, design, and document a software system of multiple and reusable components. Better ability to be self-managing and high-performing team member.The engineer sees the wider picture and communicates with other team members near and far to build a system to a specification that both during and after construction does not impede other engineers, developers, and programmers.  An engineer is more object-orientated.

Pre-Y2K it would not be unusual for a single software engineer to perform all four tasks but now nearing 2020 the art of software-engineering is being sub-divided further still with fewer practicing software engineers left.  It should be stressed though that a software engineer is not a “jack of all trades and master of none” as they are quite capable of being a master of all software engineering.

Is this sub-division a good thing or a bad thing?  That all depends on the projects you aspire to be on and how transferable you wish your skills to be.