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What are the three most important things non-programmers should know about programming?
 
Written by Brian Knapp, credit and reprint CodeCareerGenius
 
 
Since you asked for the three most important things that non-programmers should know about, and I’ve spent most of my career working with more non-programmers than programmers, I have a few interesting things that would help.
 
Number One - It Is Impossible To Accurately Estimate Software Projects
 
No matter what is tried. No matter what tool, agile approach, or magic fairy dust people try to apply to creating software… accurately predicting software project timelines is basically impossible.
 
There are many good reasons for this. Usually, requirements and feature ideas change on a daily/weekly basis. Often it is impossible to know what needs to be done without actually digging into the code itself. Debugging and QA can take an extraordinary amount of time.
 
And worst of all…
 
Project Managers are always pushing for shorter timelines. They largely have no respect for reality. So, at some point they are given estimates just to make them feel better about planning.
 
No matter how much planning and estimation you do, it will be wrong. At best it will be directionally correct +/- 300% of what you estimated. So, a one year project could actually take anywhere between 0 and 5 years, maybe even 10 years.
 
If you think I’m joking, look at how many major ERP projects that go over time and over budget by many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars. Look at the F-35 fighter jet software issues.
 
Or in the small, you can find many cases where a “simple bug fix” can take days when you thought it was hours.
 
All estimates are lies made up to make everyone feel better. I’ve never met a developer or manager who could accurately estimate software projects even as well as the local weatherman(or woman) predicts the weather.
 
Number Two - Productivity Is Unevenly Distributed
 
What if I told you that in the average eight hour work day the majority of the work will get done in a 30 minute timeframe? Sound crazy?
 
Well, for most programmers there is a 30–90 minute window where you are extraordinarily productive. We call this the flow state.
 
Being in the flow state is wonderful and amazing. It often is where the “magic” of building software happens.
 
Getting into flow can be difficult. It’s akin to meditation in that you have to have a period of uninterrupted focus of say 30 minutes to “get in” the flow, but a tiny interruption can pull you right out.
 
Now consider the modern workplace environment. Programmers work in open office environments where they are invited to distract each other constantly.
 
Most people need a 1–2 hour uninterrupted block to get 30–90 minutes of flow.
 
Take the 8 hour day and break it in half with a lunch break, and then pile in a few meetings and all of a sudden you are lucky to get one decent flow state session in place.
 
That is why I say that most of the work that gets done happens in a 30 minute timeframe. The other 7–8 hours are spent being distracted, answering email, going to meetings, hanging around the water cooler, going to the bathroom, and trying to remember what you were working on before all these distractions.
 
Ironically, writers, musicians, and other creative professionals have their own version of this problem and largely work alone and away from other people when they are creating new things.
 
Someday the programming world might catch on, but I doubt it.
 
Even if this became obvious, it doesn’t sit well with most companies to think that programmers would be paid for an 8 hour day and only be cranking out code for a few hours on a good day. Some corporate middle manager would probably get the bright idea to have mandatory flow state training where a guru came in and then there would be a corporate policy from a pointy haired boss mandating that programmers are now required to spend 8 hours a day in flow state and they must fill out forms to track their time and notify their superiors of their flow state activities, otherwise there would be more meetings about the current flow state reports not being filed correctly and that programmers were spending too much time “zoning out” instead of being in flow.
 
Thus, programmers would spent 7–8 hours a day pretending to be in flow state, reporting on their progress, and getting all their work done in 30 minutes of accidental flow state somewhere in the middle of all that flow state reporting.
 
If you think I’m joking about this, I’m not. I promise you this is what would happen to any company of more than 2 employees. (Even the ones run by programmers.)
 
Number Three - It Will Cost 10x What You Think
 
Being a programmer, I get a lot of non-programmers telling me about their brilliant app ideas. Usually they want me to build something for free and are so generous as to pay me up to 5% of the profits for doing 100% of the work.
 
Their ideas are just that good.
 
Now, I gently tell them that I’m not interested in building anything for free.
 
At that point they get angry, but a few ask how much it will cost. I give them a reasonable (and very incorrect) estimate of what it would cost to create the incredibly simple version of their app idea.
 
Let’s say it’s some number like $25,000.
 
They look at me like I’m a lunatic, and so I explain how much it costs to hire a contract programmer and how long it will actually take. For example’s sake let’s say it is $100/hr for 250 hours.
 
To be clear, these are made up numbers and bad estimates (See Number One for details…)
 
In actuality, to build the actual thing they want might cost $250,000, or even $2,500,000 when it’s all said and done.
 
Building software can be incredibly complex and expensive. What most people can’t wrap their head around is the fact that a company like Google, Apple, or Microsoft has spent BILLIONS of dollars to create something that looks so simple to the end user.
 
Somehow, the assumption is that something that looks simple is cheap and fast to build.
 
Building something simple and easy for the end user is time consuming and expensive. Most people just can’t do it.
 
So, the average person with a brilliant app idea thinks it will cost a few hundred or maybe a few thousand dollars to make and it will be done in a weekend is so off the mark it’s not worth considering their ideas.
 
And programmers are too eager to play along with these bad ideas (by making bad estimates and under charging for their time) that this notion is perpetuated to the average non-programmer.
 
So, a good rule of thumb is that software will cost 10 times as much as you think and take 10 times as long to finish.
 
And that leads to a bonus point…
 
BONUS - Software Is Never Done
 
Programmers never complete a software project, they only stop working on it. Software is never done.
 
I’ve worked at many software companies and I’ve never seen a software project “completed”.
 
Sure, software gets released and used. But, it is always changing, being updated, bugs get fixed, and there are always new customer requests for features.
 
Look at your favorite software and you’ll quickly realize how true this is. Facebook, Instagram, Google Search, Google Maps, GMail, iOS, Android, Windows, and now even most video games are never done.
 
There are small armies of developers just trying to keep all the software you use every day stable and bug free. Add on the fact that there are always feature requests, small changes, and new platforms to deal with, it’s a treadmill.
 
So, the only way out of the game is to stop working on software. At that point, the software begins to decay until it is no longer secure or supported.
 
Think about old Windows 3.1 software or maybe old Nintendo Cartridge video games. The current computers and video game consoles don’t even attempt to run that software anymore.
 
You can’t put an old video game in your new Nintendo Switch and have it “just work”. That is what happens when you think software is done.
 
When programmers stop working on software the software starts to die. The code itself is probably fine, but all the other software keeps moving forward until your software is no longer compatible with the current technology.
 
So, those are the four most important things that non-programmers should know about programming. I know you asked for only three, so I hope the bonus was valuable to you as well.

 

I suspect that many of you are familiar with the term "hard coding a value" whereby the age of an individual or their location is written into the condition (or action) of a business rule (in this case) as shown below:

if customer.age > 21 and customer.city == 'denver'

then ...

Such coding practices are perfectly expectable provided that the conditional values, age and city, never change. They become entirely unacceptable if a need for different values could be anticipated. A classic example of where this practice occurred that caused considerable heartache in the IT industry was the Y2K issue where dates were updated using only the last 2 digits of a four digit number because the first 2 digits were hard-coded to 19 i.e. 1998, 1999. All was well provided that the date did not advance to a time beyond the 1900’s since no one could be certain of what would happen when the millennia arrived (2000). A considerably amount of work (albeit boring) and money, approximately $200 billion, went into revising systems by way of software rewrites and computer chip replacements in order to thwart any detrimental outcomes. It is obvious how a simple change or an assumption can have sweeping consequences.

You may wonder what Y2K has to do with Business Rule Management Systems (BRMS). Well, what if we considered rules themselves to be hard-coded. If we were to write 100s of rules in Java, .NET or whatever language that only worked for a given scenario or assumption, would that not constitute hard-coded logic? By hard-coded, we obviously mean compiled. For example, if a credit card company has a variety of bonus campaigns, each with their own unique list of rules that may change within a week’s time, what would be the most effective way of writing software to deal with these responsibilities?

IT Outsourcing Outsourcing IT needs in the corporate world has become extremely popular because it is cost-efficient and it gives IT resources to companies that may not otherwise be able to afford them. Another positive side effect of IT outsourcing is that it has brought many technology jobs back to the United States.

As convenient and patriotic as IT outsourcing has become, it also have several limitations that have caused many companies to re-think the idea of funding their own internal IT group. It is important for a company to be completely familiar with these limitations before developing any kind of company policy in regards to IT.

The Customer Could Outgrow The Outsource Company

When an IT outsourcing company first takes on a new client, the relationship is beneficial to both sides. But things can start to get inconvenient for the client when the client's business starts to outgrow the capabilities of the IT outsource group.

An IT outsourcing company can become entrenched in the daily routine of its clients, which is great at first. But when the IT company can no longer keep pace with the growth of its clients, then the clients are stuck trying to find a new solution and keep track of its own IT assets at the same time.

The IT Outsourcing Company Lacks The Necessary Technical Expertise

IT outsourcing clients like to believe that their support company knows everything there is to know about computers and the Internet. But every IT support company has its areas of expertise and they have the technical areas where they are not quite as strong. If the client starts to experience needs from the areas where the IT outsourcing company is not so strong, then that can become a significant business issue.

This problem can be amplified if the client is a small business experiencing growth. An IT outsourcing company is not as likely to bring on new personnel for a smaller client, which leaves the client without a solution.

The Client Losses A Measure Of Control Over Its Data

No matter how large or successful an IT outsourcing company may be, there will always be the limitation of client security and the protection of critical customer data. All it takes is one rogue employee of the IT outsourcing company to compromise all of the client's critical data.

Some IT outsourcing companies have safeguards put in place to try and prevent client data compromise, but those safeguards are limited by how much access the IT company has to the client network. In most cases, that access has to be comprehensive for the IT outsourcing company to be able to do its job.

Outsourcing IT responsibilities can take a lot of stress off of a client and allow that client to operate his business by focusing on his core competencies. But there are limitations to IT outsourcing that could make it necessary for a client to do his own IT support and pay the extra costs.

 
One of the biggest threats facing small businesses right now is cyber security. Hackers have figured out that small business don’t have robust systems; therefore, they are easy for the picking. If you are a small business owner, you know how limited your resources are. As such, every dollar counts. Therefore, you can’t afford to lose customers, deal with lawsuits caused by data breaches or pay IT help staff to try to fix the issue. Below are some of the IT risks faced by your business and potential consequences. Try your best avoid them at all costs. 
 
1. Phishing 
 
This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to detect if a hacker is trying to get into your system. If you happen to receive an email that claims to be from a financial institution and asks you to provide certain data, ignore it. In fact, delete it. This is because once you make the mistake of opening such a mail or clicking the link provided, you provide a gateway for hackers to penetrate your system and steal information. For this reason, it's vital that all employees  are aware of such emails and delete them without clicking on any links.
 
2. Passwords 
 
Another way that hackers can attack a small business is by cracking system passwords. If the hackers manage to crack the password of even a single employee, they can use that person’s account to gain unrestricted access to confidential company records. Therefore, tell your workers that they should never forgo strong password creation procedures. They should take their time to create a password that can’t be easily cracked. 
 
3. Vulnerable Devices 
 
In your small business, you probably use printers, routers, and other electronic hardware to execute office tasks. Most of the time, such pieces of hardware are connected to your firm’s network. If you have not updated the software on these machines, hackers can use them to gain access to your network and steal invaluable information. Therefore, make sure that you install patches in all electronic devices connected to your network. 
 
4. Lack of Data Encryption 
 
In the modern age, you can send information through various electronic devices. Some of those machines can have inbuilt security features to protect the data while others may not have. Data from the vulnerable devices can be easily intercepted by hackers. If the information is your password, your network is no longer safe. To counter such interceptions, always encrypt your data before your send it. 
 
5. Seemingly Misplaced USB Drives 
 
Some hackers will infect a USB drive with malware and then drop it outside your offices. An unknowing worker may pick up the drive and use it on a company computer. Immediately the drive is plugged in, it releases the malware and creates a unique access point for the hacker, allowing them to steal information. To avoid such a scenario, warn your employees against using any USB drives without a proper source. 
 
 
Managing a small business means that you’re a lean, mean business machine. Often, it’s just you and a few trusted staff members. This is the reason, business owners need to have solid knowledge of where and how most important data is held. Whether it’s on site, in traditional desktops and servers, or in cloud services or mobile devices including those "BYOD" devices of your employees, in order to avoid risks, always pay attention to your enviroment. It's important to make sure that you regularly update your system, train your employees, update software and fix bugs. Often, many IT issues are caused by the smallest, almost unapparent mistakes that will affect how a program runs or a web page looks. You might not see IT as your highest priority, but in the right hands, it can become your most powerful tool for growth. 

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A successful career as a software developer or other IT professional requires a solid understanding of software development processes, design patterns, enterprise application architectures, web services, security, networking and much more. The progression from novice to expert can be a daunting endeavor; this is especially true when traversing the learning curve without expert guidance. A common experience is that too much time and money is wasted on a career plan or application due to misinformation.

The Hartmann Software Group understands these issues and addresses them and others during any training engagement. Although no IT educational institution can guarantee career or application development success, HSG can get you closer to your goals at a far faster rate than self paced learning and, arguably, than the competition. Here are the reasons why we are so successful at teaching:

  • Learn from the experts.
    1. We have provided software development and other IT related training to many major corporations in Sweden since 2002.
    2. Our educators have years of consulting and training experience; moreover, we require each trainer to have cross-discipline expertise i.e. be Java and .NET experts so that you get a broad understanding of how industry wide experts work and think.
  • Discover tips and tricks about Android and iPhone Programming programming
  • Get your questions answered by easy to follow, organized Android and iPhone Programming experts
  • Get up to speed with vital Android and iPhone Programming programming tools
  • Save on travel expenses by learning right from your desk or home office. Enroll in an online instructor led class. Nearly all of our classes are offered in this way.
  • Prepare to hit the ground running for a new job or a new position
  • See the big picture and have the instructor fill in the gaps
  • We teach with sophisticated learning tools and provide excellent supporting course material
  • Books and course material are provided in advance
  • Get a book of your choice from the HSG Store as a gift from us when you register for a class
  • Gain a lot of practical skills in a short amount of time
  • We teach what we know…software
  • We care…
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