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The Mythical IT Budget – Part 2: Leadership, Attitude and Culture

November 25, 2010 1 comment

Leadership,  Attitude and Culture

This could be the single most important aspect of your IT efforts. As we all know, engineers are of their own breed. For better or worse, they think differently and often act differently than most ‘normal folk’. In my experience they are super-sensitive to culture. A good culture can transform an average engineer into a very good one. Conversely, I have seen the best of developers wallow in a dictatorship-like atmosphere.

Managers – Lose the Attitude!

If you think that you know it all, perhaps you should try your hand at another industry. As is the case with many in my profession, technology is my passion and as such, I study it every single day, night and weekend. I know enough to know that my knowledge pails in comparison to what I wish I knew.

Engineers and managers at all levels need to understand that even the most junior person has knowledge that you can learn from. If you truly believe that, its hard not to build a culture where everyone, top to bottom, feels empowered and enthusiastic that they can contribute in a meaningful fashion.

Lose the Ego!

Whether you’re architecting network infrastructure or software framework, do not marry your design – in fact don’t treat it like it is your design at all.

If you’re white boarding, step back, let others talk and build a relationship with subordinates that will allow them to be critical. Your designs will improve and everyone will feel like they had a hand in the creation. Even better, everyone will have a stake in insuring success.

Many people feel that if they don’t have a better suggestion, then they shouldn’t raise their concerns. I believe this to be detrimental to the organization. Simply by raising an issue, others might see it and solve it. None of this takes place however, if leadership is married to every word that comes of their mouth.

Don’t Be a Clock Watcher

Do your best to hire motivated people and then let them work. Engineers like to solve problems or in the case of QA, find problems! Their minds are working in the morning before they come to work and at night when they leave work. Managers should build an atmosphere that recognize and reward this type of attitude.

Many engineers do their best work on their own time, when they feel free to create and solve. Within reason, allow for flexibility and recognize their efforts. Your organization will be rewarded several fold and will be much more productive over the clock-punching mentality.

Promote Research of New Technologies

Engineers recognize the pace in which technology moves and no one wants their skills to grow stale. Managers who don’t recognize this, allow their products and services to fall behind the curve. Find ways to incorporate new technologies and allow your people to learn and practice them.

Ask your engineers to periodically research a new technology and present it in an informal way – perhaps as a brown bag session. You will reap the benefits many times over.

Have a killer snack cabinet!

Who doesn’t like to eat? A small investment in snacks ranging from fresh fruit to hard-core junk food says something about the work place.

My personal favorite is the monthly birthday cake. It doesn’t have to be anybody’s birthday. In fact, people who work with me know that a fictitious worker named ‘Jebidiah’ has a birthday every month.

In Summary

Build a cozy and comfortable atmosphere where creativity wins over attitude and watch productivity sky-rocket.

The Mythical IT Budget – Part 1: Introduction

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

If you’re a CEO, CFO or private business owner, chances are that you have experienced software that is late, over-budget and under-delivered.  Or perhaps even worse, one or more of these has taken place without you knowing it! How do you know if that 4 million dollar budget is cost-effective? What is the metric by which you determine effectiveness?

I would submit that most organizations are not enjoying a very high rate of return on their development dollar. I would further speculate that many decision makers don’t even know that this is the case. After all, how is an executive supposed to fully understand the ramifications of their budgets when those who are in charge of the budgets aren’t making the right decisions in the first place?

The subject is a complex one and as is often the case, there is no simple answer or magic bullet. That being said, there must be a methodology in which one can measure effectiveness. Many have attempted to create business models to verify the effectiveness of this often costly line-item. Some of them have had limited success for a time period and then as technology changes, the model itself fails to deliver on its promise.

Surely there must be some something that an organization can do to ensure that they are not wasting money.  In short, there are many steps that you can take. This series of blogs will attempt to outline in various levels of detail, the best practices of software development.

Part 2: Leadership, Attitude and Culture

As is the case with most of the subjects in this series, the issues are quite involved. Each of them could be and have been the subject of an entire book. Part two of this series will attempt to push your thought process in the right direction.

Part 3: Software Methodologies – Beyond Agile and Waterfall

Certainly choosing the right methodology (Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Extreme or others) is very important and Part 3 won’t attempt to delve into each of these. Rather, it looks at methodology through a broader lens from the perceived pain point all the way through solution and deployment.

Part 4: Software languages and databases, religion or engineering?

Which is better, Java or Microsoft’s NET? Should you use Oracle or SQL Server? While we won’t delve into this hornet’s nest, I will discuss the attitude that your technical leaders should have in choosing tools. Disclaimer, I currently have a higher level of expertise in .NET than I do Java.

Part 5: QA vs. Development – the constant battle

QA and development have a similar relationship to architects and contractors; in a word, it is typically a contentious one. I will discuss the role of each department and who should have the final word in each phase and why.

Part 6: Architectural Standards and Frame Work

Hopefully, your organization has and pays serious attention to these. If not, stop reading this blog and turn your attention to it immediately as it is money going out the window. I will explain why these are so vitally important to a healthy organization.

Please stayed tuned to this blog for Part 2 of this series.

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