Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Back to Basics in the Tier 1's?

There's a wind of change sweeping the CIty which I believe is being driven by the technology arms race. I'm beginning to hear rumours of the project manager culture being dismantled in some of the tier 1's - there seems to be a realisation that the people that matter are those who write code and deliver projects - not the project managers and paper architects which litter organisational structures.

The career path in a typical IB starts with graduate recruitment - which is a two year slog usually involving coding of peripheral functionality (if you're lucky) then jump ship to get more cash to another IB where you do more coding. But coding is hard and you need to get out of it so you buy one of those blue shirts with polo logo on it and a pair of chinos and hey presto - instant project manager. You spend your time in meetings and making technology decisions, lunching with the vendors, put on three stone in weight and develop a bad blackberry habit. You build teams, manage the politics and deliver what you think the business wants.

Deep down though, you know that the guys really controlling the show are the developers - they hold the key and you know it - so the last thing you do is let them talk to the business because as soon as they do - people will start to question what you do and boom - you're out the door.

It's an all too familiar pattern I'm afraid - but it wasn't always like this. When I started in IT back in 1986, Unix was rattling the cage of the mainframes. Everyone in software development at that time was competent scripters and programmers and the industry was quite small. However, back in the early nineties, I was the only guy sitting on the train with a computer book then I started to notice a lot of other people reading "dummies guide to whatever". This was the rise of the supply led consultancies who made a killing by overstaffing IT projects.

Suddenly everyone as getting into IT - this was the new way to make money. In reality, projects were delivered by small teams or even individuals. I remember working on one large project where I was the only guy in a team of 20 who could program - I delivered the whole data migration piece whilst the rest of the team wrote docs - an no, it didn't make me feel important - I just felt sorry for the poor client who was paying through the nose.

So the tier 1's are apparently making a strong effort to hire hybrid type lead developers - people who combine hands-on development / lead small teams and are able to run day-to-day delivery of projects.
They want 'innovators' - something the consultancy led culture which still blights our industry seeks to deprecate.

If they're serious about hiring talent, then get rid of the non-programmers, abolish the title of architect and send them back to the coding front, replace project managers with tools which automate their function - tools like xProcess which builds the project plan in real-time and enables capture of processes so that you can do project estimation based on empirical data - not on invented deadlines.

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