Don’t rely on a pure technology expert…

…to do the right thing for your business

Software development exploded worldwide during the last thirty years or so. Mass adoption of personal computing devices gave rise to the first wave of unprecedented investments into software development. Technology expert was a new dream career. Then it was World Wide Web and finally handheld computing devices. The world of today and the world thirty years ago are two completely different stories. Software is eating the world and similarly to Captain America it’s just begun =) AI, drone delivery, self-driving cars – all that is rapidly expanding as your read this.

On the back of that software developers became pretty valuable personnel. The gap between supply and demand in labor market makes these guys even more valuable. Salaries & wages for software development work definitely reflect all that.

As customers we’re used to relying on service providers to do the right thing for us. Obviously the quality of service providers varies greatly. But if the service provider is accomplished enough technology-wise then that’s the primary guarantee of the quality of the service, right?

Wrong!

What’s the problem with a technology expert?

Qualification of the service provider in software development is a big deal. Any software development project is expensive and risky. Lack of skill in the area leads directly to hell: overbudgeting, schedule overrun, defects in software, maintenance unworthiness etc.

That’s not enough, however. The key in software development lies in the space of applying technology to business needs in a cost-effective manner. Many service providers are pretty happy to do any technology work you’ll ask them for. That makes the following anecdotic dialogue – which I already touched but its grotesquery makes it so exemplary – reality:

  • Hey Doc, I need a сoronary artery bypass surgery!
  • Awesome, I’m on getting lancet already!

No real doctor won’t be able to afford such irresponsibility. Risks in software development space vs medicine are night and day, of course, but money wasted is typical in such cases.

The dark side of a perfect technology expert

A perfect technology expert loves & values code & architecture. Imperfect solutions disgust them. They live in the perfect world of crisp logic of their creations and hate to land in the imperfect world of business to bend & twist these perfect creations as business requirements force them to.

I was such a technology expert myself at some point. Well, I was far from perfect but I shared the same values. I was obsessed with the code quality for the sake of the code quality. What got me out of the trap was changing hats with a product owner seeing the project from a business perspective.

That changed everything. Code isn’t valuable anymore on its own, it’s only valuable while it serves the goals of the business. That doesn’t mean I don’t care whether the code is good or bad anymore, the definition of good & bad itself transformed to take into account business value as a primary metric.

Ideal business & technology product owners are inherently antagonists – the former wants as much scope as quickly and cheaply as possible while the latter can only picture expensive perfect code which took forever to be created. It’s a big deal whether these two guys can get along if they are different people, what kind of middle ground they will pick for the project. It’s especially funny to change hats between the two if you have to play both roles – and that is also a very productive way.

Getting out

The solution in theory sounds easy – make sure the technology expert you’re hiring for a project is business savvy also. Doing this in practice is likely to be more complicated but there a few key things you can keep an eye on for:

  • If a technology expert is an owner (or likely a co-owner) of some business (likely the service provider company in question) that’s definitely a good sign meaning hands-on experience.
  • Good overall perspective outside of the world of technology with the focus on business activities is also a plus.
  • Great soft skills speak for themselves.

But don’t get carried away too much! Even if they are a business superstar but their technology expertise leaves much to be desired you won’t get your problems solved after all.

Good luck!

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