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March 15, 2005

Managing Programming for CEOs Part 1 – Decompiling Programmer-Speak

Naturally, programmers speak in code.  You may hear them but that doesn’t mean you know what they said.  I was a programmer long before I was a CEO.  Then I was a manager of programmers. When I started Solutions, Inc. in 1969,  I was all three since I was the only employee. 

Computers have changed; programming languages have changed; but programmer-speak has remained remarkably constant.  Programmers I managed at Microsoft and AT&T spoke the same language (whether they spoke English or not).  ITXC programmers, as great as they were at their jobs, still spoke programmer-speak. 

As a CEO or hope-to-be CEO of a technical company, it is essential that you crack the code.  Otherwise you will have no hope of knowing when any particular piece of essential development will be done or even what it will do if it is ever finished.  Today’s blog is a phrase book of programmer-speak.  Soon I’ll blog some secrets on actually managing programming projects.

“It’ll be done ASAP.”

Translation: There is no schedule yet.

“That feature shouldn’t add any time to the schedule.”

Translation:  There is no schedule yet.

“It’s fifty percent done.”

Translation: It hasn’t been started yet.

“It can literally do anything you want it do.”

Translation:  There is no spec yet.

“Take my word for it, my group isn’t on the critical path.”

Translation:  It’s schedule-chicken time.  We’re way late but someone else is bound to be even later.

“It’s ninety percent done.”

Translation: The remaining ten percent will take ninety percent of the elapsed time.

“It’s ninety-five percent done,”

Translation: The remaining five percent will take ninety-five percent of the elapsed time.

“It’s code complete.”

Translation:  Some code has been written.  Features will be added later.

“The code is 95% reusable.”

Translation:  Five percent of the source code is utterly and irretrievably lost.

“It’s feature complete.”

Translation: The feature list has been truncated.

“The UI’s still a little bit rough.”

Translation:  What’s not to love about the A:> prompt?

“I’ve got an idea for a really cool feature.  It’ll blow you away.”

Translation: Please give me an excuse to blow the schedule away.

“It’s Alpha ready.”

Translation: A lot of code has been written; none tested.

“It’s Beta ready.”

Translation:  It’s Alpha ready.”

“The daily bug count is going down.”

Translation: The testers have been reassigned or The testers have had their email server removed.

“What?  You wanted the results to display?  On the screen?  That’s gonna be hard.”

Translation:  Here’s a good place to bury all the slippage.  Major schedule revision coming.

“Ship it!”

Translation:  The Development team is sick of this and wants to move on to something else.  The customers will test it.

Part 2 of this series is the meaning of “done” and how to know when you’ll get there.

Part 3 is features that kill projects.

Part 4 is about great debuggers.

I’ve also blogged on how programmers can manage CEOs.

Part 1 is on managing non-technical CEOs.

Part 2 is on the even harder job of managing technical CEOs.

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