During the past months I’ve come to realize the importance of developers and how they are managed. In the few web projects that actually succeed, a common characteristic seems to be a combination of experienced developers and a manager that often has a technical background.
As a customer you don’t necessarily need to employ great web developers, but you need to employ somebody who can manage them. The developers can be working at a system integrator or at your vendor of choice. Either way the developers need to be directly involved on your projects. If they are not employees of your organisation, you need stronger project management skills than if they are on the inside, so that you can ensure that other clients and priorities are not taking over.
Some vendors are really good with developers. Take Microsoft with their Microsoft Developer Network, which has helped spark the romance with a product like SharePoint found in IT department around the world. Among the big vendors, IBM and Oracle also both has extensive developer communities with user groups and events geared at the technically savvy. Among the smaller vendors, this is more the exception than the rule. Alterian and FatWire are examples of vendors that don’t really offer much in terms of connecting with developers and a developer community, while Ektron and Sitecore are smaller vendors that have done more than most in their league.
For you as a customer this is important to take into account. It means that it is difficult to find great web developers experienced with Alterian or FatWire. It is also more difficult to convince great developers to take on an Alterian or FatWire project and learn the products, since it is far from as attractive to write on the CV compared to those vendors that treat developers with more interest.
If you have managed to pull off a success without great developers, I would love to hear from you!