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March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Two Roads in a wood ...

(I'm still on haitus from the Agile Jumped the shark. More soon. While I work on it ...)

From a recent post I made to the agile-testing list ...

I see two roads diverging in a wood ...

On one side, we have Frederick W. Taylor, with his goal of a stable, predictable, repeatable process. CMM(I) and all that.

On the other, I see an IT shop that works on projects that are "new every morning", different, and unique. Stability and predictability don't make a lot of sense when every project uses different technologies and ideas; when you desire not a predictable outcome, but a valuable outcome.

The first approach is a standardized, compete-through-process approach. It attempts to decrease the variability on software projects - which means in real English - to eliminate the differences that people make. In that case, it becomes possible to manage projects statistically (at least in theory) and hire based on hourly cost. The first approach turns development into a commodity ... or tries to.

The second approach tries to _maximize_ the differences between people for competitive advantage. Instead of a standard quota that can be predicted, it asks questions like "What new idea can you come up with today to catapult us forward?" The second approach may not be predictable, but it is design, and companies like Apple and IDEO labs have done exceedingly well with that model. (Fair disclosure: I own stock in Apple Computer Corporation. Or, in other words: I put my money where my mouth is.)

Here's the key for the CIO: If you don't pick one of the two approaches, someone will pick it for you. Under the first, it's very hard to view IT as anything other than a cost center. Under the second, you have a chance to be viewed as an investment center - to be an investment center - to help differentiate your company from other companies.

And that is why the CIO should care; it is a chance for the CIO to move up a floor to the CEO's office.

.... I think if a few more people took the road less travelled, our IT industry might be in a very different place. We could attract and keep better talent (instead of losing them to MBA's, JD's, and Medical degrees), which would increase wages, crank out better results, and begin a virtuous cycle.

Apologies to Robert Frost, but I think he would approve.

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