Renaissance man in the Knowledge Age Achieving more with less

Friday, 27 April 2007

People are amazing

I can feel a nightmare coming on.

I promise I am not going to name any person or organisation in this posting, oh how I wish I could.

Just know that in the best firm’s ugliness is only one thought away.

So I sat there today for two hours hearing about this great product idea and how after it is developed the company is going to have a massive strategic advantage. Then I made the mistaking of asking a questions. It was a simple question “At what point would development cost and time start to destroy the competitive advantages that are envisaged?”

I got into world of trouble, it turns out that decisions had already been made and meetings already held, external consultants engaged and internal developers mobilised and all parties agreed that the application could be build with no problems.

Therefore why was I going to make a fuss out the issue, well it turns out that I was not the only one in the room shocked, the other parties where the development manager and in-house architect. Let me take a moment here to state clearly this was not a power issue, many projects originate in this organisation via cross channels and it is something we encourage.

The shocking part was that the folks involved here where relatively senior but failed to ask the most simple of questions because there was so much collective buy in. Later during the day when I spoke to parties involved, I found “I thought...” and “He said....” all over the place.

Basically what happened here was folks brought into the concept based upon the creditability of the others people who had already signed up. What the project sponsor had worked out in a non-deliberate manner was that there was a chain of creditability that was not clear to others, basically he worked out that if B was onboard and thought it was a good idea because A was onboard, C got on because he thought if B was there it must be OK and the chain continued.

If the sponsor would have changed the order then the project might have been stopped in its tracks or at least would have been thought about in detail.

The point here is there was many themes at work in the process, some folk what to form a tiger team to do something, others had a tool or technology they wanted to try out, others wanted to reduce the specifications right down and others just wanted to keep the managers and architects away from the game, all reasons I can understand.

Often what escapes all these folks is that software development is a high risk game and sometimes the best way to win it is not to play & other times defining the limits under which to play is actually the best chance of winning.

There are heaps of examples of the hate or avoid the architect scenario, but on the whole I don’t think we are too hard to work with, yes sometimes we have a different perspective or different driving pressures.

The best advice I can give developers when dealing with their architect is the same I give architects when dealing with developers, first understand them as people, see that they have faults and strengths, ask them what are their driving factors and seek to work together in a fashion to carry each other along.

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