Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Management is from Mars and IT Professionals are from Venus

Jack Dausman started the dialogue with a post mentioning that 60% of the IT workers are ready to move one. Ben Pole, Kevin Pettitt and Jonathan Walkup chipped in. Of course I have my 2c to add to it.
I agree with Jack on training as key success factor as well with Ben on a need to shift the perspective from cost to benefit. I also liked the remarks about semi competent techies defending their turf. There is another dimension and that is communication.
We geeks tend to communicate in terms like: CPU, Uptime, Bandwidth, Storage, Access, Network etc. Managers tend to speak about money, corporate values, business development, key performance indicators and revenue-cost ratios. Both sides blame the other, that they speak in tongues, don't listen and don't understand. One problem is surly, that a lot of managers can't manage, so they resort to micro management (a.k.a. not trusting the techies due to a lack of people skills).
What can be done? First of all, when you move on you will take all your problems with you, so the solution is to solve your part first before moving on. There a several dimensions you can have a look. If you firmly think, that you know what is right, but you are not in charge, some lateral leadership could help. And while you are on it, beef up your negotiation skills. We became geeks because we found technology much more fascinating than business and numbers, however we need to translate our thinking into management compatible statements of cost and value. In a recent conversation a potential client was complaining our proposal was to expensive, so we ran the numbers:
" OK we can skip the validation routines, that would shave 2k from our price. But in return about 10% of the forms would have errors. To clarify them 2 engineers in two countries need to get online and discuss (if they discover them at all). That takes half an hour, given your internal rates for 2 engineers, that is about 0.2k. We don't calculate time for delays or damage for undiscovered errors. Your estimate is about 1000-1500 approvals / year, so the cost for saving 2k would be about 20-30k/year".
Suddenly they did understand. Of course it is very painful to break down everything we do into value prepositions. But it is not that difficult. We generally can set two types of cost: investment for improved productivity, speed, revenue and investment to avoid damage or higher cost. So the question is: how much do we spend on other things if we don't do that and how much will it cost and how likely will disaster strike. Once we make things measurable, even if the benchmarks are rather blurry, we find common ground with the management to negotiate. Once you master the skill and the situation doesn't improve (because you got one of them) it is time to move on. You new company will appreciate your ability to "speak management".  

Posted by on 06 February 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Business


  1. posted by Kapali on Monday 06 February 2006 AD:
    I think it also depends on the quality/criticality of the problem you are trying to solve.

    In a complex system putting your best expertise will make the difference. Otherwise it's the cost arbitrage thats the winner.

    In recent years, I am seeing the trend where expertise is not getting the kind of respect it deserves. I don't know where this industry is going that too fuelled with rampant offshoring which encouraging "technically illitrate coders" to steal the show, much to the frustration of people who have toiled their way to learn to do things "properly"