I'll probably be accused of constructing a straw man here, but of the folks who disagreed with me, their reasoning went something like this:
Everyone knows techies are notoriously lacking in social skills and therefore do a poor job communicating their ideas to the business. If the techies could just learn how to speak businessese, they would get listened to. If the idea saves the company money, the business will adopt it.
Well, I call bullshit. I've never understood where this notion came from that techies, as a group, lack social skills. Sure, there are a few weirdos like Hans Reiser out there, but he's no more lacking in social skills than O.J. Simpson. We may be a slightly more idiosyncratic bunch, but that doesn't mean we lack social skills. If you don't believe me, spend some time reading the comments section of Hacker News. Trust me, it'll boost your faith in humanity. It's the most erudite, courteous place on the internet. By and large, we're probably a more introspective and thoughtful group, and somehow that gets mistaken for bad social skills. Seems more of an indictment of society than of hackers. Besides, it's always the business guys who are screaming into their cell phones while sitting on the crapper. I don't know how you can get any more poorly socialized than that.
Techies don't speak businessese for the same reason we don't write apps in COBOL anymore: it's a horrible language. Businessese is full of clichés and Orwellian doublespeak. “Problems” became “Issues” which became “Challenges”. I remember sitting in one unspeakably spirit crushing [and mandatory] meeting while some guy from Franklin Covey rambled on for two hours about “Wildly Important Goals” or “WIG's”. I felt like an anthropologist on Mars. How could any normal human being with an IQ above 100 buy into this crap? At the end, some older tech guy stood up and said that he's seen this kind of thing come and go and asked, “Will we still be talking about WIG's a year from now”? “Of course you will,” Willie Loman answered. “Upper management is very committed to this program.” Guess what? In less than 6 months time no one was talking about WIG's any more. I knew it. Every tech guy/gal I talked to knew it. But God forbid you actually say it.
Programmers learn as much about the business as they have to in order to do their job effectively. Can you say the same thing about the business folks? Do they learn as much about computers as they have to in order to do their jobs effectively? Of course not. You'll never find a group who wears their ignorance of technology more proudly than the average business person. “I'm not a computer guy,” they'll say with a big smile on their face. Well gee, the personal computer is only the most significant invention to come along in the past 100 years. You'd think one might be mildly curious about how it works. If you went around saying “I'm not a light bulb guy” people would look at you like you're nuts. You may not be a “light bulb guy”, but you know how to identify one that's broken, right? Presumably, you've mastered the skills necessary to change a light bulb. Granted, computers aren't light bulbs, but I think you get the idea.
The final point, that the business will adopt a change if it's proven to save the company money, is based on a false assumption; namely, that businesses behave in a rational manner. Other than Ayn Rand, I don't know anyone who believes this. I worked at one place that decided to use Siteminder over Sun's SSO solution because Computer Associates gave them a discount on COBOL runtime licenses for the mainframe. Never mind that Sun's solution would have been cheaper in the long run, those mainframe licenses will look great on this quarter's budget! For more evidence, read Some Creep's tale:
I recently watched the tendering process for a fairly simple development project. Maybe 5 pages all said an done, all implemented inside an existing sharepoint solution.
Provider 1 quoted about what it should cost. $6000 - cost of the work involved, and a mark up for the hassle of having to spec and bid for the job, and deal with a bureaucracy on completion.
Provider 2 and 3, having had relationships with the company before, quoted 335,000 and 425,000 respectively.
Provider 1 was excluded. Obviously their quote was so low because they were a mickey mouse company that didn't understand what was required. Provider 2 was questioned closely because they were so much lower then provider 3, and eventually after much reassurance from the sales people of Provider 2, they were selected.
One of the techies from another department saw the quote and asked to see the rest of the spec, assuming there was more to the job then what he was seeing. After the project manager confirmed that no no, that was the spec on which the company had quoted 335,000 - the techie expressed his concerns that the quote was vastly too high. The project manager called back and said 'One of my advisors thinks this price is really too high' - the sales monkey put him on hold, came back about 90 seconds later and knocked the price down to 235,000.
Project Manager thinks he got a bargain. Techie got a round of congratulations. And the company spent 40 times as much on the project as they should have.
That sound rational to you?