Developers, assemble! Influence your managers in three different ways.

Dear developer. Have you ever felt that you never get assigned time to work on important upgrades in your code base? Perhaps you during the long nights dream of safer rollout pipelines, major refactorings or prolonged security patches? Look no further. In this article, you will be provided with three concrete tips on how to get the geeky stuff prioritized by people like your product owner!

4 min read


By Nicolai August Hagen


December 19, 2022

As developers, we are the only ones that actually see the current state of our applications. Sometimes, we deem important upgrades to the codebase as needed in order to continue on expanding the codebase with brand new smashing features. However, these important upgrades are not always easy to get prioritized by product owners and other near leaders. In order to find our way into their hearts, we need to speak a language that they may understand.

NO. 1 - Timing

One of the languages that product owners and leaders in general will understand, is that of urgency. In other words, in order to get stuff prioritized, we need to provide them with a sense of urgency. Make them see that your applications' vulnerabilities are important to patch right away. The timing of these messages is crucial. For example, if a competitor's app has been hacked and the leaders see the seriousness of the attack, seize the moment by stating that "this may very well happen to us too at any time, and this is why we need to prioritize the security patches right away!".

NO. 2 - Break down barriers!

Make sure to always break down the barriers between the business people and the developers. Make it easy for the product owner to ask you questions to better understand how your work flow is. Transparency is of paramount importance! Make sure to get to know each other better, so the leaders will better understand you when you need to prioritize in refactorings.

Show your leaders how creating new features will slow down overall progress if you don't set aside time to refactor the code within or in between sessions. Try to offer your leaders good analogies. For example, if your product owner likes cross country skiing, try the refactoring-analogy that it will be beneficial to sometimes wait for the slopemaking-machine so you can go skiing faster afterwards.

NO. 3 - Beware of the recipients personality

Product owners and leaders may seem like they're way different than you, the developer. Business people like Excel, you like JavaScript. You wear different black hoodies and drink Monster energy drinks, they wear different Patagonia vests and drink refreshingly carbonated water. However, you will be surprised of how similar you often are at many other areas in life. Never focus on how you are different, but rather focus on all your similarities.

We all respond differently to requests coming our way. Some of us follow facts (logos), some of us follow feelings (patos), and some of us follow credibility (etos). These are rhetorical appeal types. You should be aware that these three appeals functions differently, and that people place different emphasis on the three.

Fact-minded leaders

For the fact-minded person, you should offer good and thorough decision material. Maybe you can point to other known successful applications and their refactoring strategies?

Feeling-oriented leaders

For the feeling-oriented, make sure to fire up and engage the individual into your programming joy, and create the great feeling of a high-achieving team!

Leaders looking for credability in your character

Some leaders only want to listen to you if you offer them your credibility first. Make sure to show these leaders your good results before you try to influence them!

The mix

Most people are a complex mix, and respond differently on a scale on the three appeal types. Therefore, make sure that you cater for multiple of the appeal forms.

Good luck, fellow developer!

And now. It's up to you. Take with you one key takeaway from this blog post - remember that behind every prioritiziation there is a human being that you need to convince!

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