Joel Spolsky's latest article, "The Development Abstraction Layer" is a great article for anyone who is in the field of information technology in general, and more specifically those who are on the technical side of it.
I can attest, from experience, that most of what he writes in the article as gospel truth in the world of creating software that actually works. Most of the people in charge of programmers' duties have absolutely no idea (nor do they care) that the programmers are their greatest asset. Now I think it is human nature to think of one's duties as being more important than "average". I mean, even if you do the most boring, mundane job in the world…do you really allow yourself to think of your duties as being boring and mundane? Inwardly you might, but one would never allow the rest of the world to think that.
That's why everyone and their dog is a "SomethingOrOther Engineer". Nobody is just a computer programmer anymore, instead they are an architect or an engineer or a developer with a plethora of prepended titles stacked upon each other. Not because it actually describes the job they do, but because it makes others think the job they do is more important than it really is.
Now, that being said I will again repeat that for the technology company its bread and butter is nothing other than those who cut the code. Being a programmer myself, one may accuse me of ignoring what I just wrote and instead pressing on with the egotistical side of my own delusions of employable worth. But I would say the same thing about doctors in the medical profession, a truck driver in the trucking business, a painter in the art business and so on. And I am surely no doctor, truck driver or painter.
The fact of the matter is that those who are doing the actual work that is being sold are the ones who are most valuable to an organization, whether that organization sees it that way or not. Those companies who do everything in their power to keep their talent happy often succeed, while those whose primary focus tends to get in the way of or even hinder the overall contentedness of their talent tend to fail over time. That's not to say that the other 80%, as Spolsky estimates, are worthless. On the contrary, his point is that the 80%'s value comes in that they keep the 20% working on what they do best without interruption.
I think the only problem with this view is that more than a few technology companies do not exclusively sell software like his does. When the software isn't the entirety of what one is in the business of selling, then the issue of abstraction for the rest of the company is not quite as simple as he purports. Never-the-less, I think that those who work in positions that can almost always be considered support roles would do well to recognize that their services wouldn't be required at all if the bread and butter employees weren't getting stuff done.
And yet, more often than not I've found that those who cause the most fuss, cry the loudest when things aren't going well, and get the least done are almost exclusively support employees. Maybe this is a Law of Git-er-Done or something that has yet to be formally penned: "If an employee is the cause of more strife than productivity then said employee must necessarily be a support employee." Sounds quite politically incorrect.
Just the way I like it.