Skip to content

How Developers Can Push Back Against Managers Asking Them to Cut Corners

Share this article
SimplyPHP, How Developers Can Push Back Against Managers Asking Them to Cut Corners
Avatar SimplyPHP
SimplyPHP PHP Staffing Solutions

When you’re first starting out as a developer, most people dream about days spent coding on their own or working with their peers to troubleshoot a tricky technical issue. In reality, many developers are required to spend a large percentage of their time working closely with clients to help determine the timeline, scope, and budget of a project. These conversations become more frequent as you work your way up the ladder to a senior developer or management position. 

While we always try to work with intelligent and understanding clients, the reality is that sometimes developers are asked to complete a project on a timeline or budget that is simply not realistic. In these situations, it helps to spend some time thinking about how to push back against managers or clients who are asking you to cut corners or create a subpar product. 

Today, let’s discuss the issues that can arise when developers are asked to cut corners – an experience typically referred to as ‘technical debt.’ 

What is Technical Debt?

Technical debt is something that we love to discuss and we feel doesn’t get enough attention. Technical debt is what can result when a team or a client prioritizes speed over function. 

In some situations, taking on some technical debt is a strategic move for a fast-growing company that just needs to iterate a proof-of-concept. In other cases, unacknowledged or unforeseen technical debt could hamper the future growth of a product and cause long-term problems. 

When it’s taken on strategically, technical debt can allow businesses to get a project or product to market faster. However, technical debt must always be paid. The most successful companies who use technical debt always include it as part of the discussion from day one and know that they will need to take care of it eventually. 

The most significant issues arise when developers don’t speak up as technical debt accumulates. If they continue to allow their managers or the client to choose speed over functionality, it will lead to a situation where everyone is unhappy. 

Our Best Tips for Having an Honest Conversation about Technical Debt

So, how can you push back when managers or clients ask you to prioritize speed over function? This can be a complex conversation to have, but with some effort, you can help the client realize their vision without sacrificing the integrity of the final product. 

Here are some suggestions for getting this conversation started and keeping it on the right track. 

Show how the requested timeline or budget constraints will affect the project

If you’re speaking to someone who isn’t familiar with development, it can be tricky to help them understand the realities of what they’re asking you to do. If you’ve been asked to cut corners or prioritize speed over everything else, the best thing you can do is create a detailed document or list that shows precisely how their requested timeline or budget will affect the project. 

Ideally, this document will be written in plain English, without complex development jargon. By laying out the potential project outcomes and what could occur if you follow the client’s wishes, you can help them understand the repercussions of their choices.   

Talk to them about the stakes of delivering a subpar product

If a client is used to having their every word treated as fact, they may not be used to their employees telling them “no”. In these situations, it’s often helpful to explain the stakes of the compromises your team is being asked to make and how they could affect the client in both the short and long term. Sharing this knowledge is vital in coming up with a meaningful compromise. 

Offer an alternative plan or compromise

Another way you can push back against a manager or a client who is suggesting an unrealistic timeline or wants more features than their budget will allow is to come up with a compromise.

By engaging with clients closely and working on an alternative plan together, you demonstrate that you want their project to succeed and are committed to bringing all your expertise to the table to make that happen. 

It’s not easy to push back against clients or managers who are asking you to cut corners on a project. Depending on where you’ve worked in the past, this assertiveness may not have been encouraged. However, prioritizing honesty in all your dealings with clients and colleagues can help create more successful projects. And isn’t that what we all want in the end? 

Eager to learn more about development? Check out our articles or follow us on social media.