There are far too many incompetent people in technology leadership positions today.
Too many people think technology leadership is defined by documentation, time-tracking, statusing, balanced organizational charts, effective calendaring, well-run meetings, tools, immutable technology stacks, immutable processes and procedures, RACI diagrams, cost-accounting, risk and issue management, as well as, checks and balances that would make any historical oppressionist proud. This is, at best, management. It is not leadership.
Inversely, there are some in technology leadership who turn the dial in the opposite direction and believe having little to no engineering, operational and behavioural framework fosters innovation. This is at best, naive; more likely, irresponsible. The absence of structure is neither management, nor leadership.
We're then inclined to wonder which method, too much structure or not enough structure, will give us the longest, highest return on investment. Both considerations are the wrong focal points.
Ask yourself some questions about your current teams, leaders, operation and systems.
- How much software in your supported systems is actually executed in production?
- How many features out in production systems are actually used by customers and with what frequency?
- How much money was spent to build the system you currently maintain in production?
- How much money is spent to maintain the system you currently have in production?
- When did or when will your organization realize a break-even return on investment of the system you currently have in production?
- What are the areas of your system and operation with the highest risk exposure to industry regulatory and compliance breach?
- Which parts of your system have the least probability of reliability and how do they relate to the primary ways you make money?
- Name ten ways your system could be exploited by 'baddies' out in the ether. Now name ten ways it could be exploited by your own teams/employees.
If you know the answers to these questions, well done; please go teach others. If you don't know the answers to these questions, you should. Fix it. This is an automated instrumentation conversation accessible 7x24x365 for evaluation, decision and action, not a one-time report for you to file in your CMS.
If you don't think these questions are important, you should be fired because you have no idea how to actually add value to the organization that thinks you're an expert.
What are some of characteristics of a useful technology leader?
- Understands the steps it takes to deliver a solution and seeks to eliminate both the number of steps, as well as, the execution time of each step itself
- Understands the wait time in between each step and seeks to minimize or otherwise eliminate wait time between execution steps
- Fully understands each and every system, sub-system and component required to make money for the business and eliminates everything that isn't used or otherwise doesn't protect existing and generate new revenue
- Constantly seeks to eliminate architectural, operational and organizational dependencies, redundancy and complexity
- Seeks to automate everything including source integration, unit/integration/specification testing, standards inspection, performance, information security, deployment, systems health and generally things touched more than three times
- Understands the rivets, bolts and welds of the technology operation, but understands we're running a revenue-generating business, not an aggregation of technologies
My favourite conversation regarding operational waste is undelivered software. It isn't enough for some organizations and leaders to be unaware of un-used, un-executed software in their production systems which take financial resources away from the operation. Some leaders take it a step farther and focus on building new, and extending existing, software that they don't deliver for weeks, months and even years. If these software leaders were hired by some manufacturing companies of hard-goods, they'd be fired. Inventory, whether stored in a warehouse or lost in the distribution channel, is unrealized money. Unrealized money is waste. You're fired.
Software businesses focus so diligently on implementing the fewest number of mouse-clicks to separate people from their money (for value of course), yet completely fail to realize that their own company is being separated from full company coffers by unrealized return-on-investment. Inventory waste. Process waste. Waste.
A useful technology leader that adds value to an organization delivers standards-driven, tested, demonstrable, revenue-generating, whole solutions to production in very short periods of time while constantly eliminating any and all forms of waste along the way. A wasteful technology leader generates, maintains, protects, measures and reports on said waste as if it is the deliverable itself and may not even recognize the difference.
How do you want to spend your money? Your answer should determine your employability and that of your teams.