New role: head of tactical development

I posted a while ago about the idea of an end user computing czar. I have more to say on that, but then I thought of this other position.

I think most IT departments are focused on 6+ dev month projects. Which is great.

What about a separate division/team of IT that focuses on short term say upto 3 month long projects?

They could cut out some of the irritating ceremony and bureaucracy of setting up a massive project, focus on quick win projects and technology. perhaps be structured so the devs just go and sit with the customer and develop side by side.

I’ve done this sort of development many times, and I guess some of the financial systems teams I have been in are basically tactical teams, but I don’t think I have ever seen or heard the name. Or seen an IT commitment to these short term, perhaps compromised projects, have you?

I especially like the idea of a simple project justification process.

Anyone worked in one of these teams that specifically focussed on short term deliverables? (and not a technology based team (ie not just Excel/VBA, or Access), but just short term – whatever tech fits.)

cheers

simon

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9 Responses to “New role: head of tactical development”

  1. Chris Heeney Says:

    Yup, currently my job as an Operations Analyst I have to provide quick fixes to the operations side of the business. It’s similar to a business analyst but with quick fixes in mind. I grab developers time if needed but often I can manage myself with rudimentary knowledge of technology but a thorough understanding of my business and its processes.

  2. Bob Phillips Says:

    You have identified the problem in your own suggestion … What about a separate division/team of IT …

    Unfortunately, by being part of IT, they (IT) will be unable to refrain from imposing their working practices, they are bound to because they are ultimately responsible.

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    The economic value added from IT projects is hard to measure, and my experience with estimatimg EVA leads me to believe short term projects are no easier to assess than long term projects. Which means either the cost of estimating the benefits of short term projects would be prohibitive or short-circuit EVA analysis for short term projects will lead to many projects that should be categorized as long term instead being categorized as short term in order to bypass the cost-benefit headaches of long term projects.

    IOW, I don’t see this as a practical possibility if tactical development would be within IT departments. OTOH, tactical development in operating units rather than IT was tried in the 1990s, and the push for centralization since the late 1990s would imply that businesses see much more cost than benefit from developers outside IT departments.

    Few senior managers have any clue about the actual costs-benefits of any systems initiatives. What they do understand is costs. Given the choice between spending US$25,000 on a new system that could reduce operating costs by $30,000 per year and just offshoring the existing systems/procedures and lowering costs by $250,000 per year, where do you see a future for tactical development?

  4. jonpeltier Says:

    The benefits calculations are usually way out. They’ll decide a program will save five minutes each time it’s used. Time X employees, times Y times a day, times Z dollars per hour labor and overhead. Wow, that $25k programming effort will save $350,000 per year.

    Likewise the benefits of offshoring are often wildly overstated. From that $250k/year, deduct the extra oversight this project will need through completion, the additional effort spent scoping the project and writing specs for the programmers who don’t understand your company’s infrastructure and business, and don’t forget dealing with time zone mismatches.

  5. Bob Phillips Says:

    … and opportunity loss, because you no longer have the ability to manage your own destiny as easily, and cannot react swiftly.

    Offshoring is only a bean counters solution, you can easily identify a cost saving, but a) it is not a saving, just a deferred cost, and often increases, and b) is never measured later to check that those ‘benefits’ have been realised.

    And of course, the people you need to help manage the offshore people are exactly the people you get rid of. To my mind, it is the business model that is looking to downsize, in physical terms and its scope.

  6. Harlan Grove Says:

    I apologize for the tangent I started. Back to inhouse tactical development.

    It won’t work inside IT because (at least in my experience) IT does not move quickly, and IT NEVER views operating departments as clients. Senior management is the client because senior management has the power of hiring and firing while operating departments’ complaints are so much noise.

    OTOH, IT departments will fight creation of positions resembling developers outside IT.

    Classic organizational dynamics.

    Only effective way I’ve ever noticed for dealing with this is mandatory middle manager rotations. Level X-1 IT middle managers have no hope of rising to level X+1 unless they’ve successfully served as a level X manager outside IT. It also doesn’t hurt for non-sales middle managers to serve in IT.

    More bluntly, never hire or promote CIOs or their direct reports from the IT depatment ranke unless they’ve spent some time in management positions in non-IT departments.

  7. Simon Says:

    Anyone who thinks for a split second that any of this stuff has any sort rational analysis followed by some reliable calculations is in fantasy land.
    These sort of decisions are pure ‘decide then justify’.

  8. Bane Says:

    Harlan, as perhaps the only full-time developer working for an operating department in my organization, I know exactly what you mean about IT trying to take control of these kinds of positions. So, I have to work under the radar for the most part. Luckily, the proliferation of free developer tools makes that relatively easy to do these days. Still, I feel it’s only a matter of time until the jig is up. At that point, I’ll have to choose between leaving my current, wonderful position and moving to the hole of a city the head office is in, or leaving the company altogether…

    But, maybe, just maybe, I could build on some of everyone’s ideas here, and frame myself as some sort of “quick win team” outside IT. It’s a long shot, but what the heck. For what it’s worth, there are official “quick win” teams in some organizations, but the ones I’ve seen have generally been made up of business analysts rather than IT-based developers.

  9. Bob Phillips Says:

    Bane, the most important thing you have to do if you are going to make that pitch is carefully pick your sponsor, the first person you want to sell it to and who will back this going forward. You need a good person, someone who will see the value, someone who gets things done, and not someone who will blow your cover

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