Younger developers are OK with business goals: Older developers? Not so much

A new MongoDB survey finds developers and business types see eye to eye – unless you're an older developer.

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A new survey of over 1,500 IT decision makers and developers by database maker MongoDB has found that both groups overwhelmingly agree that developers do understand business priorities. 

The result challenges an old stereotype that developers don't get the world of 'suits' and suggests that today there's strong alignment between the two groups, according to MongoDB's director of developer relations, Joe Drumgoole. 

The survey involved 760 developers and 756 IT decision-makers from France, Germany, and the UK.

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It comes at a time when developers are increasingly recognized for the power they wield over a business's success, given the importance of cloud, containers, mobile products, and IT systems in general. 

However, the survey found a striking difference in perceived alignment among those who started careers in the 1980s compared with those who began in the 2000s. 

In the 25- to 44-year-old age bracket, 93% of developers think IT business managers and developers are aligned on strategic decision making. But only 62% of developers in the 55-plus age bracket thought this was the case. 

That alignment, or division, can have an impact on technology procurement, business outcomes, and the tools developers are permitted to use.  

The same difference between generations emerged in response to developers' attitudes towards the organization's approved technology and software list: 91.6% of developers aged between 25 and 34 years agree with the selection compared with 66.7% in the 55-plus age group.  

So, what's behind the numbers suggesting a wider divide between older developers and IT business managers? Do older developers feel threatened by their company wanting more millennials? Or has time just given them a healthy degree of cynicism? 

"We're speculating here," Drumgoole said of the division between older developers and IT managers. "You really need to ask another set of questions to that cohort to find out. But you can see there might be some friction there that might be from youth and age."

He added: "We do think there's something you need to pay attention to there." 

Then again, maybe older workers have good reason to not trust decision making by business managers. Older workers forced out of IBM, for example, have accused the company of targeting them for layoffs and replacing them with younger people to create a cooler image that's more appealing to younger, cheaper candidates. 

Oracle is facing similar allegations from older ex-employees, as reported by The Register in May.

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Drumgoole argues that the main factor in a developer's ongoing employment is performance but admits older workers are likely to be more expensive.  

"If you're performing and doing your job well most companies won't be firing you. If you're not performing, if you're over 50, you're probably one of the highest-paid employees. There's a tendency for some people to sit back and relax, and in the modern IT world you've got to move forward with that stuff," he said. 

"I'm 55 years old and nobody's ever said to me that you're getting to the stage where you're not really fit for purpose, Joe. If you're performing, people want to keep you. If you're not performing, whatever age you're at, people don't want you to be around the company."