Jul 25

there’s nothing wrong with project managers. nor even programme managers. not per se. good people matter. but there’s an unhealthy trend in IT, one even worse than thinking the term is interchangeable with ICT.

now, in no way do i mean to do anyone down, far from it. as i say – good people matter. but just to put this into perspective: in established professions, managers are not uber high status individuals. essential, yes, in the same way caffeine and chocolate are to a technical team, but never actually in charge of an engagement.

consider the legal profession. lawyers and barristers run their cases – it is they, not their clerks that engage with their clients and present in court. similarly with accountants, buildings architects and doctors.

there is simply no way anyone would accept that a project manager in those professions could just pitch up and do the job of the professional, never-mind front a professional engagement. but apparently when it comes to IT that’s okay..?  Just imagine a PM pitching up before a judge or an operating table…

why? well clearly we technologists have yet to establish ourselves a credible profession. in fact, we’re not even close. but there’s another reason though… these days there are many managers in IT who were once (years ago) technologists.

in the other professions i mentioned, most managers are specialists in their field, not ex-technical professionals. i think this leads to a tendency to over-estimate the value such brings to a project and to expect these people can replace, if not actually lead an engagement. given that the state of our profession is so poor; risk averse organisations are more likely to place their trust in what they perceive to be experienced risk managers embedded within the traditional business structures of their organisations.

also, there is a prevalent view that technologists know shit about the business of technology… yet do we really think that GPs know less about the business of medicine than the practice administrators they employ?

good management is essential to any engagement, and brings huge value. no question. but consider the converse - under what circumstances could a technologist just jump right in and fulfil a professional manager’s role?

in my view, good technologists need to lead technical projects, and good managers need to manage those projects as directed by them in consultation with the client.

trouble is large IT companies – and their clients – being chock full of managers-cum-ex-technologists – present themselves via their ability to understand and manage the apparently difficult project or business issues that may be involved. which, apparently, their IT people don’t get…

really? get to fuck. with the right mix of good people, there’s no reason we cant have both.

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